China's largest trade fair is the size of 71 Walmart Supercenters, where buyers go to stock the world's shelves with toys, TVs, and toilets - here's what it's like

Theodore Kaye/Getty ImagesVisitors at the Canton Fair on April 16, 2014 in Guangzhou, China.

The China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, is the country’s largest trade exhibition.

The fair began in 1953 and is now held twice a year in autumn and spring in Guangzhou, a port city near Hong Kong.

Exhibitors and buyers come from all around the world to do deals on more than 150,000 different types of products, including consumer goods, textiles, decorations, medicine, electronics, and machinery.

By the end of each fair, deals worth tens of billions of dollars will have been inked.

This year’s Canton Fair began on April 15 and will run until May.

This is what the experience will look like for the hundreds of thousands of buyers who have descended uponGuangzhou.


This year’s Canton Fair will feature 60,475 booths and take up a total of 1.185 million square meters — that’s the size of 71 Walmart Supercenters.

Theodore Kaye/Getty ImagesVisitors at the large machinery and equipment section of the Canton Fair on April 16, 2014 in Guangzhou, China.

Source: Canton Fair


About 200,000 buyers attend each session.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Source: Canton Fair


Some buyers come with a tour company, while others book their own travel for which airlines and hotel chains aggressively market their services.

Theodore Kaye/Getty ImagesBuyers from around the world pose for a photo with a Chinese police guard at the Canton Fair on April 16, 2014 in Guangzhou, China.

There are 704 guest rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel adjacent to the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center.

Shangri-La

Those who need to travel to the fair have to deal with scalpers who have hoarded tickets and resell them at a markup of 250%.

Source: The Atlantic


Because of the large number of attendees, health precautions have been taken in the past. In 2014, people had their temperatures checked before entering the fair to prevent the spread of Ebola. But sometimes outbreaks are good for business. In 2009, the H1N1 caused interest in health items at the fair to surge.

GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

Inside the exhibition buyers can find pretty much anything they could ever want.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

There are plenty of plastic toys …

VCG/VCG via Getty Images

And there are TV screens everywhere.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

There’s also an official e-commerce platform. This metal fidget spinner costs $US2.50 and the factory has the capacity to make 88 million of them a month.

Source: E-cantonfair.com

There are all types of vehicles.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

This booth specialises in police and ambulance lights.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Industrial equipment is also popular. From clamps and chains …

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

… to huge excavators.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Suitcases are of course popular.

Guang Niu/Getty ImagesBusinessmen make a deal at the 100th Chinese Export Commodities Fair on October 29, 2006 in Guangzhou, China.

So, too, are machetes, apparently.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty ImagesAn assortment of long knives and shovels are pictured here.

Demonstrations are common, and sellers use everything from mechanical dinosaurs and palm trees to mimes and dance troupes to catch a buyer’s eye.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Source: The Atlantic


But space comes at a premium.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty ImagesA man chats on his mobile phone while squatting in front of portable air conditioners at the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China on 15 April 2010.

Buying all day can make you hungry, but sometimes there’s not enough seating — so you improvise.

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty ImagesAttendees squat while eating McDonald’s hamburgers during lunch time at the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China on 15 April 2010.

Like an airport, a select few have access to VIP clubs. These clubs can offer buffet restaurants, lunch and coffee coupons, meetings with foreign-affairs officials, and “exquisite gifts.”

Guang Niu/Getty Images

Source: Canton Fair


Some companies recommend bringing two sets of business cards. One with professional contact details, and another with just a name, title, and website so you don’t get inundated inquiries after the fair ends.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Source: InTouch


Outside the exhibition, amateur translators and interpreters offer their services which helps when buyers sit down with sellers to discuss their needs.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

Others take notes as they go.

Theodore Kaye/Getty Images

These days, Amazon sellers visiting the Canton Fair are even hosting their own meet-ups on the sidelines.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Eventbrite


Canton Fair is considered a barometer of China’s foreign trade, and some exporters are currently considering reducing exports to the US.

Theodore Kaye/Getty ImagesVisitors viewing a presentation at the Canton Fair on April 16, 2014 in Guangzhou, China

But for the most part, attendees at Canton Fair aren’t concerned about a trade war between the US and China.

“The thunder is very loud,” Stephen Chow, a senior manager at Provision, a flat-screen television maker from Guangzhou, told Reuters. “But the raindrops may be very small.”


Last year’s Canton Fair in spring closed with $US30 billion in turnover.

Theodore Kaye/Getty ImagesVisitors at the Canton Fair on April 16, 2014 in Guangzhou, China.

Source: Canton Fair

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