I am heading off to China again in a few weeks. This time I will be sourcing artificial flowers and learning systems for kids. As I put it to one customer, I have one month to become a botanist !
A lot of preparation goes into these trips because I want to find the best vendors for my customers. I also strongly believe that there are so many bad vendors at the fair that you really have to do your DD prior to the fair or risk giving someone your business ( and money) and receiving a very low return on your investment – in terms of late delivery or product you simply can not pass onto your customer. There are very good vendors at the show as well but you have to put in the time to find them.
In addition to reaching out to vendors now with pre-fair inquiries I am also working with my customers to get show samples. One of the most important things you can do when you attend a trade show in China is to have plenty of physical samples of what you are looking for. Having photocopies or very skeletal product specs and asking vendors to quote on these is of no help to the vendor or to you because even the simplest products can be very technical. For this reason vendors always appreciate having actual samples that they can then reverse-engineer in order to quote you. Usually they can do this on the spot or at the worst borrow your sample for a day or two and get you a quote – as well as return your sample to you while you are still in China. Yet, I am surprised when I walk around the fair to see how many buyers do not apparently have samples with them.
If you can get on the spot quotes from actual samples you will also have more control over the cost and quality of your order. If a vendor quotes you on an image only you may leave China feeling that you have accomplished your goal, only to find out when the vendor builds the sample that it is much more costly than they said it was or that the quality of the sample you receive is nowhere near what you had in mind when you discussed the project in China. Then begins an expensive process of sending samples back and forth to China which can be not only costly, but frustrating and time-consuming as well.
If your samples are too unwieldy e.g. furniture, toys etc. cut them up and take swatches. But don’t go empty-handed. If you do you may come back empty-handed.