Where to find it
THERE HAS BEEN much hand-wringing in the media over the past year about Shenzhen's economic future, with many asking what the city would do now that its advantages as a special economic zone have largely been eroded by the rest of the mainland opening up to the world.
Those in doubt might want to look at the present, however, because it can hardly be any better.
Shenzhen's gross domestic product in the first half of this year grew by a sizzling 17.4 per cent to 152.51 billion yuan. Trade has been driving this growth, as always, with total exports and imports up 26.8 per cent to US$63.96 billion.
At the same time, several high-profile trade fairs have been held in the city, drawing companies from all over the world.
The two biggest were the China Hi-tech Fair and the International Cultural Industry Fair.
Today sees the start of the third of the 'big three': the China (Shenzhen) Consumer Goods Procurement Fair, which is being held at the Shenzhen Exhibition Centre until Thursday.
The aim of this annual event, according to organisers, is to provide a communication platform for domestic producers of consumer goods and international procurers. Think chain stores, shopping centres, supermarkets and even mom and pop shops: Where do they get all their goods? The workshop of the world, that's where.
This year's 40,000-square- metre exhibition venue has 2,000 display booths, all of which were fully booked by July.
An estimated 30,000 procurement companies will be attending the exhibition, while as much as 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the purchasing orders placed are expected to come from overseas buyers. Total attendance is projected to exceed 100,000 visitors.
The fair is divided into eight sectors: procurement, business equipment, consumer goods, OEM/ODM (original equipment/design manufacturing), famous brands, old traditional brands, franchises and services providers.
Franchises and famous brands will probably attract much attention this year as they have hitherto been less well known among foreign procurers but have enormous potential, according to Hua Tao, president of the Shenzhen Retail Business Association, which co-organised the fair with the Shenzhen government.
'Convenience chain stores will be a shining point of the fair. This industry witnessed growth of more than 30 per cent last year [in Shenzhen] and needs investment and co-operation [with international partners],' Mr Hua says.
'Many world-renowned brands such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Metro have been coming here for the past two years,' he says, adding that the return rate is about a third overall.
Bao'an Bicycle, named one of Shenzhen's most promising companies in a recent citywide survey, is taking up 15 booths compared with 10 last year, according to vice-president Meng Qingjun.
Many firms like Bao'an Bicycle used to attend only trade fairs specific to their industry, limiting their potential customers.
'Now, the Consumer Goods Procurement Fair gives us the opportunity to meet a wider variety [of customers],' Mr Meng says.
His words were echoed by Mai Weipei, president of Zhongshan Downtown Candle Manufacture. 'The fair has helped our company become suppliers to world-famous supermarket chains, including Wal-Mart and Jusco,' Mr Mai says.
He says the advantages of the fair are the same as those of Shenzhen itself. 'Compared with other overseas trade fairs, the strength here is obvious: a booming domestic consumer goods manufacturing industry.'
Mr Mai says he wants to keep attending the fair in future, even though he has already built up good relations with many procurers. 'We are here to project our company's core competence and gather information about industry trends and buyers' needs,' he says.
Many newcomers seem similarly bullish about the fair.
Taiyuan Cosmetic, which has its headquarters in Shenzhen and sells its products mainly in second-tier cities and towns throughout the mainland, will attend the fair for the first time.
It has four exhibition booths with six-metre-high display boards, the largest among cosmetic companies this year.
Taiyuan president Wang Hua says: 'This fair will contribute to our goal of building a presence among large supermarkets. And we also want to communicate with international brands about OEM/ODM co-operation.'