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Beginners Guide to Canton Fair Part 5: Strategies to Source the Right Product and Suitable Supplier at Canton Fair

Read Part 1,2,3 and 4

Considering the sheer number of suppliers participating in Canton Fair, unless you are The Flash, it is impossible for you to see everything. The most common remarks we hear from others are that they spend all this money to get to the Fair and they don’t want to miss anything.

We hear you! But look at the bigger picture, let’s go back to the main objective:  the reasons to attend the fair… “To source products that sell well and make a lot of money”. Which will then allow us to make that lifestyle changes we so desire? The Canton Fair trip must revolve around achieving that objective. In order to achieve your targeted outcome, a little planning, preparation and research on finding the right product and dealing with Chinese suppliers go a long way.

The goal is to find products with the potential to do well online. Ideally, the products must come from a reliable supplier(s) at reasonable prices. Again, this boils down to question 1 & 2 discussed previously in Part 2 of this series. In our opinion, the best way to achieve maximum outcome out of Canton Fair is to pick a handful of niches and fully analyse products within these niches properly.

Depending on the amount of participating exhibitors, if you are a beginner, seeing 3-4 niches properly in that 4 days would provide you with quality information. If you have been before and would like to try this strategy, you can probably get away with up to 6 categories.

It is more beneficial to focus on several potential products rather than skimming through thousands of products and not remember what you have seen. Remember, whilst there are over 160,000 types of products being showcased here annually, you only need a handful for your business.

Easier said than done, but don’t worry too much about ‘missing out’. Work with what you learned within the time frame you have.

That said, such strategy may not work for everybody. We ourselves have done Canton Fair using a few different strategies before we found one that works for us. Some of the strategies we have tried were :



Strategy 1: No Niche, No Idea, Just to See

Guess the majority of online selling rookie falls into this category. With so much information out there to learn, you just don’t know what to do and where to start. So the next logical thing to do is to ‘go there and see what is out there’. We did exactly this with our first Canton Fair.  We were overwhelmed by the number of products available and continue to feel bogged down with all the information. Our saving grace was 2 products we felt ‘sure’ about which we spent hours at the hotel that night researching.


canton fair dealing with suppliers

Tip: Do this if you have a knack for knowing what’s the next big thing or have uncanny ability to see ‘potential’

Tip: Don’t do this if you are an indecisive person

Tip: Try to limit yourself to 5 to 10 minutes per booth, unless if it is a ‘lightbulb moment’ product.

Tip: Take plenty of photos and make sure to archive them accordingly to keep up with the amount of information.



Strategy 2: Find the Right Products and Suppliers For an Established Niche

We prefer this method, especially when acquiring new products or a new niche. Prior to the fair, we spent time researching on that category. We look at keyword searches, popular products, other competitions and price points.  We also want to see if there are better variations or another version.

canton fair dealing with suppliers


Tip: Do this if you are confident with the amount of research you have done on the niche or have proven success in this niche

Tip: Limit each booth to 15 minutes depending on the number of suppliers and booth you would like to visit

Tip: Be consistent when asking questions to each supplier to make sure you can compare apple with apple

Tip:  Take time looking, trying and documenting the potential product. You want as much information as possible to help you grow your idea/concept/customisation



Strategy 3: Know the Product, in Contact with Several Suppliers and Meet them at the Fair.

We contacted a few suppliers regarding a product we were interested in. Ended up being invited by the suppliers to attend their booth. At the fair, we watched the product demonstration, did a thorough inspection, tried the product ourselves and asked more questions. We certainly learned a lot about the product. It was a great experience as we spoke to a team who are very passionate about their product and are willing to engage with us in making the product suitable for our market.

canton fair dealing with suppliers

Tip: Do this if you know exactly what you want, with specifics.

Tip: Do this if you are switching suppliers for an existing product

Tip: Always have Plan B in case this product did not follow through



Speaking to the Right Suppliers

When going through the booths and meeting with suppliers, it is worth knowing if you are interested in speaking to manufacturers or trading company. Not every booth at the fair is a factory or have manufacturing capability. It really depends on your selling structure when deciding on the type of suppliers you should be dealing with.

Once you decided who to go with, it is easier to systematically eliminate suppliers from your lists and only speak to the ones who fit your needs and requirement.  This way, you are able to focus on the right product and the right people.

You will find that Trading Companies tends to get a bad rep for being dodgy and selling mediocre products. However, in our experience, you will also find factories who produce crappy quality products. The trick is to avoid the dodgy opportunists and try to find reputable ones to deal with. This takes time and effort. Some people are lucky to have great suppliers from the get-go while some don’t.

canton fair dealing with suppliers

Tip: Trading Companies usually call themselves (XXX Import /Export /Wholesale /Trading). This can be seen on the Booth Sign Board.

Tip: Trading Companies tends to display a variety of products

Tip: If unsure, Ask!

Tip: Sometimes you will get an answer such as ‘we are a trading company but we also manufacture products’. Tread carefully. We usually just play it safe and walk away.



Speaking and Collecting Information from the Suppliers

The information you are looking to obtain from the suppliers including but not limited to:

  • Suppliers information (company capability/photos)
  • Product Information
  • Product Catalogue
  • Production/Manufacturing Information
  • Any other products that they have
  • Any other products that they are working on
  • Price


Inspecting Samples

The benefit of attending Canton Fair is, the suppliers got their game face on and only showcase their best quality stuff. So take your time to inspect the samples and see what they are capable of. The most important thing about looking at the sample to remember the standard and quality of the Canton Fair sample. This is to ensure your actual sample live up to the standard you saw at the fair.  Take as much photo, videos and notes on the product as possible. Observe the workmanship and quality of material because when you finally receive your own sample, you will find that this is where it all unravels.



Going Back for Seconds and Third and Fourth…

Seeing a product and how it works just once is not enough.  Double and triple check by going back to see the suppliers. Ask more questions and take a good look at the product again. This way you will be more focused. If you have thought about making the product better, this is the best time to go back and speak to your suppliers about it.



Negotiating with the Suppliers

We don’t do it at the show however we have witnessed few buyers who would ‘close the deal’ at the fair. It is interesting to watch buyers negotiate prices and MOQ with the supplier. If you happen to do this, get the best negotiation outcome, by speaking to the decision maker. This could be the general manager or factory owner. You will find that the person you spoke to initially is part of the sales team, so feel free to ask to meet the senior management. More often than not they are happy to oblige.


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