Canton Fair exhibitors grumble as western buyers fail to turn up

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am

It was only the first day, but this season's Canton Fair did not appear to be pulling in enough buyers.

'The situation doesn't look optimistic. My estimation is the organisers lost 70 per cent of the usual attendees,' said Joey Ye, a sales manager with an electronics manufacturer from Enping , Guangdong.

He blamed the financial crisis for keeping European and North American buyers from coming to the fair.

The fair, dubbed the biggest on the mainland, attracted nearly 22,000 mainland companies to take part, 20 per cent more than in April's spring session, officials said.

The Ministry of Commerce, which organises the fair, sent invitations to about 850,000 overseas companies. But it would not reveal how many of those registered, nor how many turned up yesterday.

Mr Ye said: 'I don't expect any business from Europe and the US this year. Many of my clients have told me they will not come. I will have to rely on orders from other Asian countries and the Middle East.'

He complained that buyers were putting heavy pressure on prices. 'Negotiation is particularly tough today.'

David Liu, chief operating officer of a software company in Beijing, said his company would have to diversify, turning attention from overseas to the domestic market.

Visiting the international pavilion, he hoped to find new information-technology products from overseas exhibitors seeking to sell on the mainland.

The pavilion, which made its first appearance at the fair two years ago, is aimed at cultivating domestic consumption.

Mr Liu said: 'More than 90 per cent of our clients are from the US. They outsource their projects to us. Now we are losing that business, so we have to start thinking about the domestic market.'

Of the 424 exhibitors at the international pavilion, only four are from the US, down from 22 at last year's fair, according to Guangzhou's Nanfang Daily. It quoted an official in charge of recruiting US exhibitors saying the financial crisis meant most of the former participants were unable to attend this season.

Yaas Shayan from Los Angeles said the trading company she worked for wanted to move into the mainland market. The California-based wholesaler has half of its business in the US. 'People are spending less, so we want to try in China,' she said.

On top of wholesale, the company plans to become a retailer on the mainland by opening 300 shops in the coming year.

The first of the fair's three phases opened yesterday. Machinery, construction material and electronics are in this phase, which will close on Sunday. Furniture, toiletries and toys are in the second phase, and textile, clothes and accessories are in the last.