Canton Fair Review.

photo(26)So the first block of Canton Fair is out of the way and for those of you who didn’t get chance to visit I thought I would throw up some nice items I have come across while at the first 2 phases of this 2013 winter trade show.

Nothing amazingly ground-breaking seems to be at the show these days, I’m not sure what it is I’m expecting to find there while I wonder around in a dangerously low caffeinated state but I never seem to find anything I haven’t seen before. I think this is down to a lot of exhibitors now fearing competition seeing and then copying their latest innovation so they would rather not show it at all. Probably why we never see Apple exhibiting there I guess…..

Still you can’t really not go – perhaps through fear of missing a great product or maybe the glimmer of hope that someone has decided to open a pizza express franchise somewhere in the cavernous fair complex.

Jokes aside Canton Fair is without a doubt a great port of call for importers new and old and really you can’t knock the “All under one roof” factor of getting round so many products in one day. If your new to importing from China and looking for an easy way to learn the ropes then I would still recommend a visit here.

I can’t show you any products I am working on myself but I can show you some stuff that I think was pretty interesting in terms or margin and volume potential. Who knows, someone out there might see something they have been looking for?   

photo(20)Yes it’s true, there were 3 exhibitors touting full turn-key cement factory packages with a guaranteed operational facility erected on a plot of land of your choice in around 10 months. Probably an amazing potential for something like this in a developing economy especially one looking to expand its infrastructure. I have a good friend doing business in Tanzania, Tino if you read this then this one if for you, just don’t ask me for a loan.

photo(22)Though a pretty crap pic from my newly workshy iPhone, I found this supplier offering faux leather corner sofa beds for 99 usd a unit in black or brown. I’m looking at making some very simple sofa beds in the future in our foam factory so have been looking around for simple designs to work with and spotted this. Really I don’t think you can go far wrong on an item like this and the quality was half decent. I’m a big fan of big bulky items that your average back room importer can’t handle as it means your competition is limited. Remember, where there is hassle there is money.

photo(19)I have sold a lot of petrol machinery in the past and nestled outside among the Chinese Brand car section these rotorvator tillers have always been a good item. I have done chippers too which again carried low competition at the time, have a quick look on eBay and you will still see some great sales on these units, interestingly all on the same models.

photo(17)I have some fond memories as a kid of weeks away in Cornwall packed into our families Conway trailer tent, this little number sure did bring a smile to my face. Realistically I’m not sure if there is a market for these in the UK but perhaps somewhere like Australia ? I don’t know but this was a great unit and they were asking just 2000 usd. I am half tempted to take a chance on a container of these. It was well built with a double bed, tidy seating/dining area, pull out kitchenette and an awning included. I hope my dad doesn’t see this.

photo(14)If lottery winners could open a company in China would this be the result? Clearly with a lot of money invested this company had 4 models of this electric car on display which really begs the question of where did they plan on selling them. They were priced at 2600 usd a unit which in fairness is not a lot of money for a brand new car, maybe I’m missing something? I would genuinely be interested to know if they sold any as there were certainly a lot of people hovering about the stand. Did you order some? What’s the 0-60? So many questions.

photo(24)If you’re the buyer for Halfords please buy this lock. Its genuinely great. It combines a front LED light and a U Lock shaped rear LED light to make a light system that works really well and can then be quick release lock removed to assemble into a tough u lock. The front pod is complete with a bar mount and the rear unit has a slick little seat post mount. I have not seen one before and even though the factory claims they invented it its likely a rip off from the 1800’s but it is actually a good product that I think could get a lot of traction amongst urban commuters.

photo(23)As this blog post takes a dangerous veer towards my love of bikes I will just share this BMX that I found. It’s a pretty good looking street bike in a style that is right on trend. The factory had a few models but this exact one would be a great item to be selling in the run up to Christmas. Even on the dreaded eBay there doing 130 gbp for similar “unbranded” models and this one could be yours for 80 usd. There is a market there I’m sure.  

photo(16)If there is an award for least appealing booth then these guys may just have taken it, so unappealing in fact that there were no staff there to answer my request for Methylamine. Little did they know that their humble booth would reach the glamorous heights of my blog.

This was actually my first time paying much attention to the chemicals section of the fair as I was looking for a couple of adhesives for our underlay factory. It was in fact as boring as it sounds but frankly I would guess It’s where all the real money is made. I learnt, for instance, that someone could make a bunch of money if they imported a couple of certain adhesives into the UK.

photo(15)Wild horses had to drag me away from this booth. For the first time in my life I almost made an on the spot purchase at a trade show. What we are looking at here is the business end of a PVC pipe production line and as soon as I caught a glimpse of its little mouth spitting out lengths of white pipe I was sold. Before moving to China I renovated a House back in England and being the easy life adverse person I am I decided to do the majority of the work myself. Most memorable of which was the Sunday afternoons sat on the bathroom floor wondering exactly who John Guest was and just how much money he was making from his range of speedfit pipe.

Those of you who are sensible enough to actually pay a plumber to do your plumbing won’t know that pvc water pipe is actually pretty pricey for what it is (especially the John Guest stuff) and when completely plumbing out a house for water and central heating from head to toe you use miles of the stuff. This machine (though quite a bit bigger than what is shown in this picture) takes a hopper and forms new or recycled PVC beads into pipe of various thickness up to 40mm in diameter. So were talking water feed to water waste here. At 28k I really am thinking it would be a great unit to have sat in the corner of my factory just churning out the odd container. I just need someone who wants to buy some pipe.

photo(13)I don’t know, its apparently advertising a furniture company but I’m not really sure what message its putting out there. Still, it got a lot of attention which I’m sure was worth the 2-3000 usd per m2 that this floor space likely cost.

So there you go, a compilation of arguably useless information but information none the less. There are a couple of items there that could make someone some money if they decided to import them I’m sure. I don’t know if anyone out there has any questions or is looking for advice about visiting Canton Fair but just ask below and i will be happy to help.

If any of you are around for phase 3 give me a call, ill we wondering about the halls and now having found the new Starbucks in B Building -1 I’m suitably re caffeinated.

18 thoughts on “Canton Fair Review.

  1. Hey Dan

    Have read a couple of your articles now and am hoping for some feedback in terms of sourcing product for new business. You mentioned in an earlier article that you may go to the fair and not actually purchase product but instead visit factories… From a quality control perspective this is enticing – but I guess it needs to have the product I am looking for in the first place – this seems difficult to establish prior to the fair.

    As a new business owner I find myself in the position debating if I am going to walk away from this fair with a range of products for my first line or if I am better to source through an agent / directly? I know you can’t provide me with business advice but if the right suppliers aren’t going to be there I guess my question is – is it worth it?!

    A potentially costly gamble.


    • Hi Cassandra,

      Well yes i would say firstly if you have not been to canton fair then attending the correct phase with an idea of what you want will be worth it.

      Essentially use that time to be hands on with the products and arrange to visit suppliers that are close to Guangzhou, where the fair is located. There will be some that are quite local.

      I would not recommend going there with an open mind, you will probably spend the whole time going around in circles as the product choice is extremely vast.


  2. Hi Daniel,

    I’m considering a trip out to the Canton Fair in a few weeks time for this year’s edition. I’m looking to source manufacturers for a new product we’re launching. Would you say the Fair is more for sourcing existing product, or a good place to source manufacturers? Our product is relatively complex with a number of parts that require tooling and assembly.

    Ideally I’d be hoping to meet good quality manufacturers and get a tour of their factories during the 4 days I’m over. Does this sound feasible?


    • Hi Calan,

      Its a good place to meet potential manufacturers for your product, just make sure to attend the relevant phase and try contact a few of them before hand.


  3. Hi, did you see any other turnkey factories/machineries besides cement and pvc pipe ones that may be interesting opportunities?

    • Hi,

      Yeah there were a few that interested me, im getting into building and construction materials now as they are simple and always in steady demand.

      Id like to open up a plasterboard facility in the near future.


      • I have been looking into gypsum board machinery a year ago, not sure what size yours would be but I put my eye on 1.000.000 square meters/year output machine for up to 20.000 USD. Correct ballpark? 🙂

        • If your serious about doing it then get in touch, I would he happy to offer you sales territory rights for your country in exchange for set up cost investment.

      • Hey Dan,

        One of my reasons for the canton show and china visits has been the Gypsum Board. Have spoken to a fair few suppliers of the last few years, if you want to discuss email me as can advice a bit


        • Thanks jay,

          With the space I have in the underlay factory I’m seriously considering this or a few other options. I would appreciate any advice you have on the market if you have the time.



  4. Hi Daniel, thank you very much for this post. I really liked the cement factory, that could do well in East Africa. The sofas are amazing too, and I would appreciate more info on them please.

    • Hi Fred,

      Your right, get inland and i think its a good opportunity – even for some contract work. Drop me a line if your interested in the sofas.


  5. Hey Dan,

    Missed you again at the show. Was there for the first phase, why they started it on the Tuesday I don’t know.
    Viewed lots of products and even managed to get to the other Hall, the one you use golf buggies.
    Was actually there looking to buy pipe etc, more complicated than you imagine. Still finding it a great place to visit and we have really got some great products now which we are looking to start rolling out in the next year. Don’t know if you find the same but we only saw 2 other English people looking to buy, which to me is excellent as looking to import.
    Certainly learnt a lot out there, and whilst I agree with you about visiting the show, I would say its not as simple as it appears and people new to this would be well advised to use your services. I think with inspections etc it really does help having someone in china and understand their working methods.
    keep up the blog and really enjoy the read, looks like your flying high and the best of luck…. hopefully get to meet one day

    • Thanks Jay,

      Next time give me a call and we can catch up.

      Your right there are certainly less and English people here it would seem. I think its down to the UK being a bit tougher than other markets – i know its one of the most competitively priced that i export to and from my experience as a country we are the least “give it a shot” nation that venture over here. Still like you say its great for those that do like you.

      Hope its all going well for you, if i can help with anything you know where i am.



      • Thanks Dan, yes think the UK market is tougher for certain markets I think, we are finding at times it comes down to shipping and MOQ. We plan a lot of our shipping now after Chinese festival. As you say and I would agree no one is willing to give it a shot. Obviously the big companies are coming out to china but then to me that appears to be it.
        But I still think it is a hard market to buy from and requires lots of hard work, we have been back and forth over the last year and still not there yet! had a few shipments and lucky they have all been okay, few more which have required us to visit factories and inspect every single item as they have got it wrong! But if it was easy everyone would be doing it eh! then nothing for us!!

        Will contact you when over, still have your mobile


        • Yeah your dead on with the shipping.

          So many times i have been sourcing a product, negotiating the price, getting the certification in place only to then eat up most of the customers margin on the shipping. I get half decent rates now as we ship 4/5 40ft containers a week but really you can only save so much.

          It really leaves me thinking why don’t we make some of this stuff back in the UK competitively – There is a market for it. Im speaking to people everyday who want to buy from China while based in the UK. I know from first hand that its nothing to to with property price as they cost more here, fuel and powers just the same, raw materials are pretty much the same so the only thing cheaper is the staff – which you end up needing 3 times more of, believe me.

          For me the only real pull factory for opening my factory here is the lack of “red tape” and the tax benefits of being based offshore.

          If someone from HMRC called me and offered me 3 years VAT and tax relief along with a break in council rates i would open a place in the UK without a doubt as the saving on shipping would be worth it and the relief period would warrant the set up costs. Anyone in power reading this?

          Its a funny old world when you cant set up something to create jobs for people and retain economy within the UK instead of it leaking out because they tax system renders the business better off abroad.

          Who are we to question why?

Any comments or questions? I'd love to hear them.