canton fair tips

11 Tips To Help You Prepare For Canton Fair

By Harriet Simonis

Are you heading to the next Canton Fair? If so – amazing!

Located in China, Canton Fair is the biggest wholesale marketplace in the world. It’s where you can source products, meet your suppliers, and negotiate prices so you can get the best margins (and ultimately most profit) for your brand.

Visiting Canton Fair can do wonders for your business – whether you’re in the early stages of sourcing products, or looking to grow and scale your business. However, since the Canton Fair is so huge, it can be a little overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide… to help you get the most out of the fair, and be the “Canton Fair Pro”.

So without further ado, here are 11 tips to help you prepare for Canton Fair…

canton fair tips importxperts team in china

The ImportXperts Team @ Canton Fair

1. Set yourself goals.

We strongly recommend you define your goal before you attend to ensure you get the most out of the trip.

  • Are you looking for product inspiration?
  • Are you looking to expand your existing product range by finding similar products in the same niche?
  • Or are you looking for a better supplier than the one you have found on Alibaba – so you can get better quality and a better price?

Depending on your goals and needs, you might need to take different approaches and select certain priorities. If you’re coming with us, we can help you define your goals and make sure you plan your trip to make it as successful as possible.

2. Take business cards.

It’s a good idea to take business cards with you to Canton Fair.

This will not only help you to connect with your favorite suppliers, but it will also help to show them that you are a serious buyer.

Make sure your business cards include your business email (i.e. stock@businessname.com) rather than a personal @gmail.com or @hotmail.com email. This will add further credibility to you as a buyer.

The vendors are clued up when it comes to knowing who is a serious buyer and who is wasting there time. After each time you speak with a vendor they will ask for your business card to follow up with you after the fair.

Business cards are light to carry and can make a  big difference in creating a good professional first impression with your suppliers. Plus, they are light so stocking up won’t have that much effect on your luggage.

3. Pre-apply for a Canton Fair Badge.

Apply for a Canton Fair badge in advance, in order to save time when you first arrive at the Canton Fair.

You can apply for your pre-application buyer’s badge by signing up on the official Canton Fair website here. This isn’t the easiest form to fill out, so we have written a simple guide for you to follow here.

This badge will save you time as it will fast-track you into the Fair, as it means you won’t have to queue to verify your identity. However, you will still need to collect your buyer’s badge either at the Canton Fair or from one of the appointed hotels here.

Make sure you wear your badge and be careful not to lose it as reapplication comes with a fee.

4. Plan your route.

The Canton Fair is massive and can feel a bit of a maze if you don’t plan your route. We would strongly recommend picking up a Canton Fair map from your hotel and circle the areas you want to visit.

Familiarise yourself with the map beforehand so you understand how the grid system works. This will make navigation a lot easier while you’re inside, so hopefully, you’ll know where you’re going and will be much more efficient (rather than wasting valuable time getting lost!)

On your first day, focus on familiarising yourself with the fair and understanding the different areas. Take note of the stores that you are interested in, based on your goals. You can use a pen and a notepad to record store names and sections/buildings or otherwise use your phone.

Day 1 should be about:
Scouting it all out, so don’t get into conversations or you might end up wasting your precious time if you talk to each store. At night, once you are resting in your hotel, go over your notes and start filtering stores out – you can even have a template list of questions to ask so it’s faster and easier for the next day.

Day 2 is the day to:
Engage in conversations with your selected suppliers and ask questions. Once you’re done with one supplier, take a selfie so they can remember you once you contact them in the future.

canton fair tips map

5. Install WeChat.

Since Facebook and WhatsApp are banned in China, we recommend installing WeChat to be able to communicate with each other.

If you’re not familiar with WeChat, it’s a hugely popular app in China. The Chinese use WeChat for everything… A social network, instant message, booking taxis and way to send and receive money.

If you find a product that you like and the vendor is happy to sell you a sample, WeChat will allow you to easily send a payment pretty instantly. In some cases, some suppliers will give you samples for free, but it’s good to have this downloaded as a back-up. Also, many restaurants inside Canton Fair don’t accept payments via Amex or Mastercard, and the only options are to pay with WeChat or cash.

Finally, if you have your WeChat QR code on your business cards the vendor can add you there and start communicating about your potential order. A good tip is to take a selfie with the vendor, add them on WeChat and then send them your picture so that when you speak with them next time they instantly remember who you are. It’ll help you to stand out against the many others who they have spoken with, and hopefully help you get a good deal.

6. Bring cash.

While WeChat is an amazing way to pay for things, we’d also recommend you take some cash with you too – just in case there are any technical errors or your phone runs out of battery.

The currency to hold is Chinese Yuen also known as RMB. You can pre-apply for this currency before you leave your home country or otherwise apply for an international bank card like Revolut or Monzo which has good foreign exchange rates and low international withdrawal fees.

7. Carry a backpack.

As you stroll in the area, carrying a backpack or a stroller will greatly help you carry those catalogs and brochures you gather. You’ll be surprised by the number of materials you get at the end of the day and it would be hard to imagine carrying them all without a convenient storage.

Inside your backpack, we’d also recommend taking a notebook, pen, water bottle, and fully-charged power bank (just in case your phone runs low).

canton fair tips rucksacks

Our ImportXperts boys modeling their rucksacks

8. Dress comfortably.

All year round, Guangzhou is mild but you’ll spend most of the day walking, so you’ll want comfortable clothes and especially shoes.

Generally, the weather varies from:

      • April: 19 °C (66 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F).
      • October: 21 °C (70 °F) and 28 °C (83 °F)

There is no specific dress code for Canton Fair but we’d recommend dressing smart/casual so that you can make a good first impression to all those you meet.

Finally, it’s also worth taking a zipped shoulder bag so you can keep your belongings safe. The Canton Fair isn’t known to be a dangerous place but a zipped bag helps to ensure things don’t fall out.

9. Bring a notepad and stapler.

Most suppliers will give you their business cards, which can sometimes be difficult to keep hold of. If you have notepads, you can staple your notes to the business cards you receive to save you time in remembering their products.

canton fair tips negotiation

10. Install a VPN.

If you really need to connect to Facebook, or any other platforms that are banned in China, you can connect by pre-installing a VPN so you can open the sites.

The most reliable VPN we have found is called Express VPN. They have a free 30-day trial so you can cancel after the trip. It allows you to install on multiple devices i.e mobile, tablet and computer + It has an easy interface to turn on and off.

11. Always carry toilet roll!

And last but not least, you might like to keep a toilet roll with you!

The Chinese don’t use toilet roll so it’s always good to keep a pack of tissues on you incase you get caught short. Although the Canton Fair is fairly clean, we’d also suggest a bottle of hand sanitizer or baby wipes on you, for maximum cleanliness!

In summary…

You will need to prepare both your body and mind ahead of visiting the Canton Fair. It’s an incredible place with a huge amount of business opportunity so with these 11 tips, hopefully, it’ll set you and your business up for success.

Don’t forget – the Canton Fair happens twice a year so there’s plenty of opportunities to go back and see more if you feel you haven’t seen everything (although you’ll probably never think you’ve seen everything!).

At ImportXperts, we visit the Canton Fair both in April & October so if you’re interested in coming with us, drop us an email at support@importxperts.com with the subject line “China Trip” to find out more. Here’s what happened last time we visited…

Good luck!

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