Canton Fair April 2018
Twice a year thousands of online sellers head to Guangzhou to seek their fortune at Canton Fair.
Planning and preparation are key to ensuring you are as productive as possible during your visit.
This is a time to be very focused – don’t just grab every brochure in sight to take home and read later!
Here are our 10 must read tips…
1. China Visa:
Have you lodged your visa application? Get it before you arrive. Yes, you can get it in Hong Kong on arrival. However, it’s just a drama and if you do, expect queues and delays…a day or even two in many cases. If you have no choice, then so be it.
Yes, in theory you should get a business visa. You need a letter of invitation, etc.
Yes, many people (like me) just get a tourist visa. Say you have heard about Canton and want to go and experience it. It just isn’t a big deal.
There are two options. Stay near the event where the pricing is higher as you would expect, or stay in the city and have more of a commute. A friend of mine reckons the city is best – more to do in the evening, chill out a little, etc. Am not sure I agree with him, at the end of the day I just want to eat and sleep! Your budget will dictate your choices. Wherever you end up (unless you are a 5***** budget person), don’t expect western style hygiene and cleanliness. Just the way it is.
Here is the link: http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/en/. Make sure you do – saves you a lot of time getting in! Takes around 4 business days to process so one of those jobs best done earlier than later.
(Prepare these docs before you go online to apply – passport photo, copy of passport details page and business card. All .jpg or .png files no larger than 1MB.)
4. Business cards.
Yes, of course you need a card! If you don’t have a company then make a business name for yourself and print a hundred or so cards. You are there to do business and must realize that the exhibitors have a huge investment in attending so they will be focused on doing business as well.
NOTE: I set up a separate email address just for Canton and print separate cards to use at the event. Expect to be smashed with email in the weeks following the fair. I use outlook (remember all things google are blocked in China so gmail does not work). This ensures that I can keep most of my Canton coms separate and I then move coms to my business email for those I really want to try and work with.
5. Google is not loved in China:
This means EVERY google product. Yes, I have VPN but have had some disasters when I could not log on for a couple of days.
So, I forward my emails to an outlook email to ensure I can keep up to date with the minimum of hassle. I download frequently used templates from Google Drive onto my desktop so I am relatively immune to any VPN issues.
6. Sort out who you want to see.
There is no point wandering around “checking it out” as you so easily become swamped. Ideally you will have researched some suppliers and take the opportunity to meet them.
Follow this links for the maps of the venue you need: http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/en/map/map.html
7. Beware the deals:
While there can be some great deals, some are one-off’s. Old stock, cancelled order’s, etc. If you are looking for a long term and sustainable product, be very careful. You can end up with a one off – great if you are more of a clearance type seller and good profit to be made. However, if like me you are looking for a long term supply and price stability, then maybe these deals are not for you.
As mentioned earlier, these exhibitors have paid a lot of money to be at Canton. They are looking for an ROI. So, expect to be hustled. All over Asia you find most often they close and close…I don’t mind. Am there to do business as am sure are you!
8. Shoes & clothes:
Make sure your shoes are good for walking 10km a day on a hard surface! You need good support. Take track shoes. Pack Tiger Balm if you know what it is to ease aching muscles of an evening and some anti-inflammatories.
Smart casual is the best description for clothes. There is less emphasis on business attire at these events.
9. Wheelie bag:
One of those back pack’s on wheels is best. Regardless of your intentions to be electronic, there will be brochures and give-aways that you will want to keep. Also, you may end up with a product sample or two. It is also handy to throw in a bottle of water, some medication, hand sanitizer if you are an anti germ person, etc.
10. A5 notebook, mini stapler, box of staples, pens:
Protect your brain from overload and spending the evening in confusion. Arrive on the stand and if you decide you want to follow up with them, reach into your bag and grab your notebook. Staple their card to a page and write some notes to remember. Take a pic of them on the stand with their brand showing to remind you who you spoke to.
Most Important: Make sure you ask them for another card and staple it onto any literature they give you. Then you are bullet proof later…so easy to match the literature in your bag to your supplier notes.
You need to be ruthless. If the person you are talking to is not a potential supplier, then just exchange cards to be polite and if they give you anything, take it and put it in your bag. It is just good manners. Then, in the evening when you open your bag, you know straight way which literature you want to keep (cards already attached) and which is for the bin. I suggest you do much of this as you go – when you sit down and take a break you can quietly sift through what you’ve already gathered and bin anything irrelevant.
11. Wait…there is one more…!!! Money.
Most often you can only get a limited amount of currency before you arrive – sometimes you arrive with none. If this is the case, change $100 at the airport so you have some cash (at a pretty average rate lol) and do the rest at a bank in town.
Beware all the money changers…great rates but sometimes they give you some counterfeit bills. Great way to ruin your trip before you have hit the fair. Either use a bank or a big brand money changer.
So, there you have it. Hope you are feeling ready, armed and dangerous. While there is much more I could write, these are the main points I recommend you make note of.
As always, ask us anything. If we don’t know the answer we’ll know someone who does!
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