On Tuesday, I visited the Canton Trade Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. It was a very eye opening experience, and I learned a ton. The Canton trade fair was started in 1957 and is well known as the world’s biggest trade show. The fair extends over several city blocks and many special accommodations have been made for the fair as it is such an enormous event. Housed mainly in three gargantuan, arena sized buildings, with underground networks full of sellers connecting the buildings, it is hard to gauge just how big the fair really is. While there were sellers from all over the world, from what I saw, the fair mainly serves as a method for suppliers located in the Guangdong region to show off their products to western buyers. However, I will admit, I only looked at a small fraction of everything that was offered.
I had a couple different purposes at the fair, one was to identify new market trends in order to gain better market knowledge. The other was to find and source interesting products that display innovation and reflect a changing marketplace. The variety and depth of the products I looked at were surprising, every product I could think of was represented and there was no shortage of competition in any niche. I talked to many different suppliers about their products, one valuable lesson I learned is that suppliers expect you to be very direct, handshakes and friendly small talk are not necessary or warranted. The main questions I asked were about the minimum order quantity for a product, then the cost per unit, and then if we could affix our own logo and color scheme to the product. There are many certifications that are required if the product is going the U.S, and they are very different from those they have in the EU. I did identify a few products that I think would be worthwhile to sell, as well as which ones have no potential because market saturation has been achieved. I would love to go to more trade fairs to identify products and trends, I was getting the hang of it towards the end.