I am about to head off to China to attend the Canton Fair. I am going on behalf of someone to source product and new vendors. As preparation for my trip I am contacting vendors who might have product I am interested in. I think it is always good to do this for a few reasons:
1.) If they know who you are vendors will spend more time with you in their booth ( some vendors are extremely busy and it is a challenge to get their attention) which means you will come away with more information.
2.) You can ask vendors to bring swatches of fabric/materials or other product you have seen on their website. Most vendors do not have swatches on hand so you really need to ask them to prepare beforehand.
3.) You can get an idea of vendor communication. Some vendors reply to you immediately while others don’t. And some vendors you just never hear back from. In fact, I usually email vendors several times just to gauge their response and communication skills. Of course, many vendors are busy before the show and this may be a legitimate excuse for their failure to reply. But you have to ask yourself: if they don’t get back to me when they are busy, what happens at production time?
I also think it is a good idea to try to get vendors to do samples for you prior to the show- so you can review samples the show. This will save you a lot of time and money. However, most factories need a 7-10 days to do samples so you have to submit requests well ahead of time. Of course it is not wise to give your product designs to vendors you do not know. For this reason, I like to ask vendors to do “dummy “samples. These are samples of your product but without all the proprietary design info. This will give you a good idea of a vendor’s capabilities ( if you want to use a certain fabric on a product for example) and costs.Of course the cost will likely go up come order time but that is to be expected ( since the cost they quoted you was based on a dummy sample and raw material costs in China are always fluctuating. ). But it is worth it to find a vendor you can work with.
Anyway, this gives you an idea about how much work is involved in going to a trade show. One of the worst things you can do is to go unprepared. Do your research and it will save you much time and money.