If you haven’t checked out how the previous posts on the Canton Fair-look here: Traveling to the Canton Fair and here: Canton Fair First Impressions. This post is about myself and my brother’s journey on finding products and supplier relationships for Amazon FBA.
Hall C looks deceptively small, but it’s 4 full stories whereas halls A and B are only 2 stories.
Patterns we noticed at the Canton Fair
I am going to try and summarize what I saw in all the phases. Keep in mind it is a bit like summarizing what you you see in a swirl of paint. Patterns you recognize pop out. Everything else is just chaos. What’s chaos for you are patterns for someone else. To put it another way, if you asked 10 different buyers what they saw, you would get 13 different answers.
At first I was going to title this section as “Trends” as opposed to “Patterns”. Since this is my first time at the Canton Fair, I cannot honestly say what is a trend or a continuance. So I leave this as patterns.
- Vacuum blenders. A vacuum blender vacuums out air before blending. I saw a number of these blenders being demoed, but it took way too long to evacuate the air before the actual blending. Some consumers might find the claimed non-oxidizing qualities great, but waiting more than 20-30 seconds before the blender to start was painful.
- Cordless drills. I couldn’t help but notice a cordless drill maker every time I passed on because my universe is limited to what I see at Home Depot. It felt like there was over 20 manufactures of cordless power tools.
- Electric transportation. We are talking bikes, scooters, skateboards, cars and wheelchairs. It is amazing how electric transportation is taking over and how well put together the products were.
- LEDs. LEDs are not a new technology but I couldn’t help to notice them everywhere from stereos to work lights to home decorations.
- Humidifiers. I guess the technology to vaporize water is widespread, because there were countless humidifiers moistening my skin throughout the fair.
- Electric fly swatters. If you’ve never used an electric fly swatter-they are cool. But this also seemed like a past and faded trend. Still, I saw these products in a variety booths. Perhaps they are a trading company favorite.
- Stainless steel knitting machines. There weren’t many of these machines being sold, but due to their size and complexity we saw a handful of them. It was fascinating watching these machines knit stainless steel scrubbers.
- Hair products. I don’t spend too much time with my hair these days, but clearly there is a market for hair products. From hair dryers to crimpers to rollers, there was a wide range of hair care products. This soon became chaotic to me as the products repeated.
- Water pumps. We all need to drink water, but this was probably the most widespread product at the fair. After seeing them about 40 times, I eventually stopped and asked a manufacture what they were. The pumps were long and sleek, designed to fit within the pipe.
- Silicon anything. If it could be made out of silicone, we saw it . . twice. Silicon pet products, food storage, kitchen faucets, and every kitchen device possible. It didn’t see a silicon suit, but we did see a few sex toys . . .
- Office chairs. There was no shortage of rolling office chairs. A theme we noticed were the chairs bolder colors and integrated speakers for video game experiences.
- Drones. Drones are taking over the world. Some were small enough to fit in to the palm of your hands to ones that could carry a DSLR. Talking with buyer looking for drones, he mentioned there were over 300 manufacturers worldwide although only 10-15 were at the fair.
- Backpacks. Ever notice all those Kickstarter backpack campaigns? I saw plenty of high quality backpack manufactures that are ready to take your money.
- Luggage. Over four floors were dedicated to just luggage and bags. I still use a 10 year old soft side roller, however the world seemed to have moved on to hard cases with 360 swivel wheels.
- Body Shaped Sleeping Bag. This is the one item I believe is a trend. I noticed these full human body sleeping bags a few years ago when I was researching sleeping bags for my son. These are not mainstream yet, but there were certainly a handful of companies making these now.
- Vinyl tarps and fish nets. A number of manufacturers had booths that all looked exactly like each other. They were vinyl tarp and fishing net suppliers. I can only wonder how they were able to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
- Camp folding chairs. I remember REI released a super lightweight and compact folding chair a few years ago. It seems that design has leaked out and everyone is making a version of it.
Things I missed
I missed plenty of things. This was something I realized after the first day that I couldn’t humanly cover and process all the items at the Canton Fair. Even with an Amazon FBA focus of something that fits in a shoe box and costs between 25-30 dollars. Due to my biases here were the common things that I didn’t have a knack to process.
- Clothing. We walked many floors of clothing, yet their variety was so great, I couldn’t detect any noticeable patterns. I did find it odd that many of the clothing items were for winter. I guess with the long production cycle, these were items for the fall/winter 2018.
- Fashion Stuff. Again, too many designs for me to pick up. This stuff is not in my radar.
- Art and Home Decorative items. Plenty of these items, but to weary to process the tremendous range in designs and styles.
So-was there anything good for Amazon FBA?
There were plenty of great products to source for Amazon FBA.My brother and I walked away with 20-30 leads/ideas and suppliers, however there were some gotchas.
- A product that seemed perfect for Amazon FBA was already being sold on Amazon. This is not to say that the product couldn’t be modified or improved, but the game was already on this niche. If the market is big enough, there is no reason not to pursue these options-but it would require more of an investment to modify the product.
- Exclusive markets. Other products that were promising, could not be sold in certain markets due to exclusivity deals. I was approached a few times to be an exclusive dealer for the US.
- Pricing of the products was higher than expected. I read this complaint prior to leaving, but was a bit shocked at some of the prices the suppliers were quoting especially on the custom manufacturing end.
The Amazon FBA Journey-was the Canton Fair worth it?
I was able to secure a supplier for a product I was developing, so along that line-the trip paid itself off. Additional highlights:
- Generating a list of 20-30 ideas/leads and the supplier to those leads.
- Connecting with over 200 manufacturers for additional product development. Granted these relations were 2-10 minute conversations, but making contact is half the battle.
- Connecting with fellow Amazon FBA’ers. Found some fellow FBA’ers and had a good time discussing business strategies and opportunities.
- Connecting with local inventors and sourcing agents for future work. I am not sure if I will ever use these contacts, but it’s always good to build a network.
- Enjoyed a really fun city and ate
somea lot of great food.
Should I go next year?
Don’t go if you expect to find a golden egg product sitting in one of the booths. Most of the manufactures here are fairly established and as I’ve mentioned earlier, charge higher prices. While I did get by with mostly english, many of the smaller factories required a translator when getting into the details. And it is those details that matter, so come prepared.
If you do go, make sure you do your homework and have some idea what you want to focus. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the exciting products and suppliers you see, but you will have no way to cover everything. It is better to be thorough, cover less ground, but have deep discussions with manufactures than to blast through all the floors and not making great contacts.
Often times you will see 10-15 manufactures of the same product, so it gets increasingly time consuming if you want to dive into a single product. My advice is to talk to 3 suppliers to understand more about their work and then make note of the other suppliers. This way you could still cover some ground and not get hung up. You can then validate the demand on a product and if you find it’s something you really want to develop, you an follow up with the rest of the suppliers. I have more tips on covering the fair and talking to suppliers in a following post.
Until next time-will I see you at the next Canton Fair? Drop me a line to let me know!
FBA in Guangzhou