The Fall Canton Fair is coming up next month. I have not been to the Fair in a couple of years and I do miss it, from the excitement as we get on the shuttles to the fair every morning to a cold beer in the hotel bar with other traders at the end of a long day. It is kind of like being on tour with the Rolling Stones. I always prefer the fall fair to the spring fair because the spring fair usually coincides with the onset of rainy season and with May Day which can make travel in and out of China pretty uncomfortable. The fall is much nicer weather wise and the major fall holiday, National Day, occurs well before the fair. So if you are planning on attending one of these fairs, by all means go in the fall.
I had an email from someone the other day who is headed over to the Canton Fair next month. He will be attending Phase 2 of the fair looking for toys for his online business. This will be his first visit to China and he is understandably nervous. I told him he needs to prepare, prepare, prepare. This means putting together a list of the vendors he would like to meet with, contacting them prior to the show and then mapping out his visits beforehand. The fair is too immense to just ‘wing it’ as they say. If I remember correctly Toys take up Hall 14 1-3 and some space in adjoining halls 13 and 15 meaning there are probably between 1200-1500 toy vendors. Needless to say, no one can visit that many vendors in a few days’ time, and by not spending time on the CF website before the show, contacting suppliers, you may miss some perfectly good vendors if you walk the show unprepared. Additionally, there is a psychological benefit to contacting vendors prior to the show, for you go to Canton feeling that you know someone. And when vendors know you are coming they are usually very welcoming. This will make you feel more relaxed and give you more confidence as you walk the show. You need that confidence because not only are there so many booths to walk past but everyone is Chinese. If you are coming from Boca Raton Fla is the person who emailed me is, then you are probably going to feel like a fish out of water in China. Whatever you can do to minimize this feeling you should do. The more relaxed you are in China, the more positive you will feel about your business there and the better will be your chances for success back home. And it all starts with preparation.