If you've attended trade fairs in your own country, you'll know how much of a boost just those one or two days can give your business, in terms of making contacts, getting new product ideas, and even negotiating prices.
But trade fairs, exhibitions, and shows are not only about getting to the good products before your competition. They are also great for learning about your industry, meeting like-minded people -- and competitors, and making contacts with official bodies such as Chambers of Commerce and government organisations.
It's becoming increasingly likely that you will run into some Chinese suppliers exhibiting in your local or national trade fairs. Chinese companies are waking up to the value of taking their products and brands abroad to meet eager buyers, before their competitors back home.
However, the majority of Chinese companies still have little or no representation abroad, and some of the greatest opportunities for normal importers like yourself will be finding suppliers in China that are not fully developed into big exporters. So you'll need to look within China to make contacts with them, and the trade fairs are an excellent starting point.
China has hundreds of trade fairs every year.
The main venues are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Most of the trade fairs that get held each year are not so big and very industry-specific, which is good if you are focussed on a narrow range of products. However, if you are looking at a wider range of products, and you want to maximise the use of your time in China, you should be looking at one of the main international trade fairs:
The Top Trade Fairs In China
The Canton Fair
(officially called the CECF -- Chinese Export Commodities Fair)
Hong Kong Electronics Fair
China Hi-Tech Fair/ComNet
China International Consumer Goods Fair
(a venue rather than a single exhibition)
Shanghai International Clothing & Textile Expo
Most trade fair exhibitors will also arrange appointments during or after the fairs, for you to visit their offices and factories. This can be a great opportunity to build a face-to-face relationship, and of course it will let you see what kind of company you are dealing with.