Buyers left the first virtual Canton Fair with mixed feelings, after the renowned trade event was forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The online China Import and Export Fair closed on Wednesday, with some online attendees complaining about poor interactivity and alleged “Photoshopped pictures” of products. Organisers of the biannual fair, usually held in China’s southern manufacturing hub Guangdong, cancelled a press conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, during which they were expected to release details on transactions. The online fair was held over 10 days instead of the usual three weeks and attracted 25,000 virtual exhibitors, around the same level as last autumn’s physical event, official figures showed. But some buyers said the forum was not suitable for deal-making. Guangzhou-based trader Mohammed Ryan usually attends both annual fairs to find electronics products for exporting to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He found little merit in the virtual event. “One of the best things people say about the Canton Fair is that you can actually see the products, touch and feel them. Also when you talk to a supplier, you can get a quick response. If you do not like it, you can move on,” Ryan said. “But online, the whole dynamic is not there. You send a message but do not get a response after more than half an hour. The products are all just ‘Photoshopped’ pictures, you do not really see the real product. Suppliers are limited. At least from my experience, I did not see much more added value than on [e-commerce platform] Alibaba or any other sourcing website.” Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post . While the online fair offered live chat and virtual meeting options, Ryan said he had waited for more than an hour for a reply before eventually giving up and logging out. The Canton Fair has been a major event since 1957 and has been instrumental in boosting China’s exports , which have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In early-April, Beijing decided to move the Spring Canton Fair online, leaving only two months to prepare. In the online version, exhibitors could promote their goods 24 hours a day via live streams on the fair’s website. But some chose to air pre-recorded promotional videos of their products, with a scannable bar-code that brought users to the company’s WeChat page for further interaction, leaving some buyers to complain about the low quality user experience. “At this online event, you do not see anyone. There is no interaction. The whole feeling of the exhibit is not there,” Ryan said. Ronald Lee, who imports consumer goods from China to North America, spent a few hours each day through the event browsing online vendors, but could not find the suppliers from which he previously bought kitchenware and photography equipment “For the first year, it is a good effort. Things could be improved a bit. I do notice there are a lot less vendors this year at the online event. A lot of products are the same as before, there is not much new. And when you access the site from North America, it is a bit slow,” said Canada-based Lee, who first attended the offline trade fair in 2008. “For the first year, I am impressed given that they did not have much time to prepare. The registration was easy and smooth. They kept my passes from the previous year so I did not need to register again.” The fair’s organisers said the Autumn event will take place in late-October, but whether it will be online or offline is dependent on the coronavirus situation in China and abroad.