Canton Fair Wrap-up

Canton Fair Wrap-up

Back in April we attended Phase 1 of the 117th Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China. In the 3 months since returning we have had some time to reflect on the experience and put together our thoughts and lessons learned. Here’s our Canton Fair Wrap-up…

Look, listen and learn.

From a product design perspective there is so much to learn at these big trade events. Getting out of the studio and walking the halls provides some great opportunities and insights:

  • See the products being traded on the global marketplace;
  • Identify which products and companies are the big sellers, what are they doing right?
  • Look out for emerging trends, technologies and products you just can’t find back home;
  • Spark some creativity, inspiration and new ideas for your next product;
  • Meet with buyers and manufacturers and understand their needs;
  • Get to know the market you are designing for.

Stand out from the crowd.

After only a few hours of walking the halls you begin to tire of seeing the same items over and over again. There are only so many fluoro tape measures and red hammers you can look at before losing interest. It is clear that products, displays and booths that can stand out in the crowd have the best chance of getting noticed. As product designers we have a great opportunity to create a real competitive advantage for the manufacturers and brands selling at these shows. Point of difference can be created through innovation and a fresh design approach.

Face to face is best.

Correspondence with international clients can often be limited to emails and Skype. The Canton Fair offered us the opportunity for to meet a large number of contacts in one place. We took advantage of this by setting up many face to face meetings. These meetings offered great personal interactions, valuable introductions and insights that wouldn’t have been discovered through electronic communication. Looking back now we can see it was these face to face meetings that helped us accelerate projects along and strengthen our business relationships (both new and old).

Customise for buyers.

Buyers walking the halls are probably looking for something new, and when they see it they often want it exclusively. Manufacturers know this and look to produce designs that easily adapted to suit multiple retailers selling in the same region.

Bring information back to local clients.

By the time we returned to Australia we found ourselves armed with a wealth of new information, some great new ideas, new contacts and a mountain of catalogues. For us it was important to identify the bits of information that would be valuable to us and to our existing local clients. It might be a new material, an idea for a design improvement, the details of a new contact. We looked for anything that could add value to the service we provide as design consultants.

Bonus Tips.

  • The exhibition halls are huge (112.5 hectares in fact) so there is plenty of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a bag with wheels!
  • Many OEM factories are happy to inform you they “make for Makita and Bosch”. Beware.
  • Beat the insane traffic at the end of the day by taking the boat along the Pearl River back to the centre of Guangzhou. Or stay at the Shangri-La located on site if your budget allows.
Lucas Lastman

An industrial designer with 15 years’ experience, working across a broad range of industries, from automotive, to consumer product, retail and packaging, to power tool and hardware. Lucas enjoys working directly with clients to facilitate the solution process and tackle challenges early on in the process.