The Canton Fair
If you are new to selling online and sourcing your goods from Chinese sources, you may not know what the Canton Fair is.
The Canton Fair is a trade fair held in the spring and autumn seasons each year. The first trade fair was in the Spring of 1957 in Guangzhou, China. It is the most well-known trade fair in China to most Amazon PL (Private Label) sellers. Like many people, I source a good amount of my goods from Chinese manufacturers and suppliers. I see many people go to the Canton Fair and come back in most cases with only a couple of new products. I also thought—similarly to the big US vendor shows—it may be hard to get any real business done other than a few key meetings.
This is when I started asking my mentors, who are in the tens of million a year in sales of all PL products on Amazon, and who wholesale at trade shows across the US, about going to Canton.
The resounding answer I received was “it is nice but I do not go anymore,” or “you should go once to check it out, but I do not go anymore.” This made me wonder why??
Why Sellers Stop Going to the Canton Fair
I started asking other sellers questions. And the number one reason why sellers stopped going to the Canton Fair was because of the lack of variety. What?! My mentors, the people who were years ahead of me, who’s businesses made my own 5-million-dollar-a-year business look small, told me they shop in other places. Now, I needed to know where and how this was possible. So, I asked if I could tag along on a trip and they agreed.
Quick note: I learned that they buy in January to sell in spring. AKA…these guys are buying ahead of the seasons just like big box stores (great lesson learned there). But I also learned why these guys shop in other major selling cities in China as well (and why we now go to other countries like Thailand for example). I take their advice to heart now for my own business and my clients’ businesses. Here are the top 4 things I learned from them:
4 Reasons to Look for Direct Sourcing Alternatives Besides the Canton Fair
- It’s super crowded: The fair, during peak runs, is overloaded with people. This means that getting any meaningful business done for them, with a manufacturer at the fair, is too slow for people like my mentors.
- There are smaller varieties: Even though the fair is large, it will have a lot of the newest goods being launched (much like CES in the US) but the entire product sets are smaller.
- The COGS are higher: Apparently, there is a premium at the fair and you will pay more there than anywhere else. Also, you have more competition there and less time to negotiate.
- The cost to attend: Like anywhere else, the cost of plane tickets not purchased way in advance, hotels, and everything else associated with travel will be more expensive. It’s really just basic supply and demand.
In closing, Canton is a great show and should be attended by serious private label sellers at least once. With that being said, there are other, possibly even better alternatives for your business to source a good amount of products, in a bigger, better, faster and cheaper way.
About the Author: Alan Basinger
Alan Basinger is CEO of GDW Inc and a 15-year e-commerce veteran. As well as a serial entrepreneur, sought after mentor, coach, and speaker, Alan is also is a serial giver. He’s on a quest to help 1,000 people become financially free through starting and running their own profitable e-commerce businesses.