Find out what a China buying trip is really like...
Our China buying trip involves a lot of travelling right from the get-go. We gather at our offices in Swansea before departing for the 3 hour drive to Heathrow airport. Eleven hours after getting on the plane in Heathrow, we arrive in Guangzhou (somewhat wearily) but our new mascot Something Different Stanley keeps us in good spirits!
Something Different Stanley
Getting off the plane we we are hit with a wall of humidity which is something we never get used to. We hop into a taxi and it's a very cosy journey as the boot of the car can only fit one suitcase and there are 3 of us travelling, so two of us squeeze into one seat next to a pile of cases. There is much horn honking which could be mistaken as aggression but in fact the Chinese are very calm drivers, they weave in and out of the traffic with many near misses, which fills us with fear but our driver doesn't bat an eyelid!
Our taxi situation
After arriving at the hotel and having a quick shower we go for food. We choose a traditional Chinese restaurant. Unsure what's on the menu we use the Google translate app which leaves us in stitches as not many of the meals make much sense. We choose what we think is a whole fish along with rice, lotus flower and some vegetable dishes. Some of the flavours are often unexpected as sweet and savoury food is served in China at the same time. During the meal we kept hearing a wooshing noise, wondering what it was we went to investigate. Of course it was our dinner swimming around in a pool. The fish was really delicious, probably because it was so fresh!
Our evening meal
Fish in the restaurant
Every morning we leave at 8am and join the long queue to get into the show along with the exhibitors. We spot a girl working for one of the suppliers every morning in her very glam purple fluffy shoes. We on the other hand, choose comfort over style and trainers are a must because on average we cover 12 miles a day. Sore feet and legs are pretty normal to us on our buying trips, as we're all used to being sat at a desk everyday.
The purple shoes!
Canton fair is a massive complex, think of the Birmingham NEC but on a larger scale! The halls are divided by category such as ceramics, glass, seasonal etc. Being a gift supplier we cover virtually every area of the show which is 12,100,000 square metres in total. The reality of buying is walking miles every day, looking at hundreds of stands to discover an idea for an exciting new product or to meet a new supplier who can help us develop a new line we've designed. Your eyes have to be peeled to make sure you don't miss anything. To keep us entertained we play a game of who can find the ugliest/strangest looking product and rate it out of 10 with 10 being the worst. An oversized rainbow bulldog/mermaid ornament wearing sunglasses we chose as the overall winner.
After spending 6 days in Guangzhou we catch the train to Kowloon in Hong Kong. It's very different to a train ride in the UK. There is strict passport and security control when travelling between China and Hong Kong even though they are only two hours apart. Arriving in Hong Kong we were met by lush green vegetation and tall sky scrapers surrounded by mountains that rose up into the clouds.
After catching up on emails we head out into Hong Kong in the evening. We take a taxi across the bridge to Kowloon area. We discover an outdoor night market in an alley between two roads. They are selling all sorts of wares from T-Shirts and watches to toys and bags. Our buyer puts her skills to good use and compares the prices at each stall before negotiating prices, eventually coming away with a whopping 40% discount on some gifts and souvenirs for friends and family back home.
The following day we attend the Hong Kong gifts and premiums fair. There are over 4,300 suppliers here from all over the world. We pick out many beautiful items, discuss colour changes and arrange quotations with suppliers. We can't wait to show you all the items we have found.
It's lovely to see existing suppliers on each trip. Some of our most trusted manufacturers we have worked with for over 10 years and have forged great relationships with.
As our customer you're probably keen to hear about some of the products we discovered on our trip. Whilst we can't share anything at this point, rest assured that we've found lots of new and unique lines which will be arriving over the next few months. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram for our latest announcements.