Visiting the Canton fair…


The autumn session of the Canton fair begun on October 15th and will end on November 4th and as usual, this place is gathering the best and the worst of the Chinese industrial world. High tech products and high level suppliers are mixed all along the aisles with adhesives for children and craftsmen.

Consequently, the most difficult issue remains in identifying who we are talking with on the booths.

How to know if your contact represents an import/export company or a real factory knowing that they will all state that they are manufacturers? What is real in the commercial speech recited by your contact? How to know if the fashion design product complies with the standards required by your country?

Visiting the Canton fair requires preparation and anticipation.

Before envisaging participating to the Canton fair, it is necessary to prepare some simple products’ sheets and launch a quick sourcing. This sourcing can be made easily by Internet and give you some information about the standards commonly applied in China, the Chinese designs, and also give you an idea of the prices on the market. By preparing this first step, you will be able to go quickly on the fair and not lose time with non-interesting products or suppliers.

In case you identify potential partners during this sourcing, you will then get the opportunity to organize some visits following the fair. You will consequently optimize the cost of your trip in not only identifying some partners but also in qualifying them by a visit on the production area.

The support during the fair is a key to succeed in your approach. Even if hiring a translator can appear as the best solution to accompany you on the fair, this can be discussed. To make a sourcing on a Chinese fair requires not only some language skill but also, and above all, a real understanding of your products, your requirements in term of design, technical specifications, norms… This is the job of a purchaser or a project manager. This person will make you save time in, for instance, quickly identifying the traders from manufacturers by asking some few relevant questions. If your target is working only with manufacturers, you will reduce the risks to lead in the wrong direction.

The Canton fair, by its huge area, is very complicated to manage. After one day of wandering through the aisles, it is not easy to remember what product correspond to what company, price, norms… That is why it is essential to prepare some simple useful documents such as:

  • A simple product sheet with a picture (or even some sample if possible) with the main characteristics (technical, business issues…)
  • A simple RFI (Request for Information) sheet to collect easily the information from suppliers and be able then to compare all the suppliers on the same level of information.

This first selection must be made each day, after the fair.

During your trip in Canton fair, you will receive a lot of information on suppliers, products… and the post visit is the most complicated and time consuming part. Indeed, you will ask this supplier to send you some new quotations, ask that one to send you samples, require from some of them some certificates… It is very easy to be lost in this mass of information. The only solution to get out of this situation is to establish with each supplier an action plan that will define clearly the responsibilities of each stakeholder, the tasks and the deadlines. This kind of documents used in project management system will automatically conduct you to another following document called “open issues” that will gather all the requirements, communications and modifications.

This tool will accompany you all along the phase between the fair and the validation of the first order. This step can take from 1 to 6 months and should be considered as the most important as this will lead you to validate a golden sample, define the frame of work with your partner, collect all information regarding the project (technical modifications, prices updates…) and of course establish a quality inspection procedure that will be used during each inspection before shipping the orders.

As we can see, to succeed in Canton fair doesn’t mean only taking the plane, see some interesting products and then come back to office with a stack of catalogues. It requires a real upstream preparation, a structured methodology and an efficient follow-up after the visit.



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