Back to China again for the April edition of the Canton show.
As a bellweather for the global economy, optimism abounds.
The previous 3 shows have been irregular with their sparse attendance. Unlike earlier shows, they were less like Oxford Street in the run up to Christmas and more like a quiet backstreet in Baghdad at midnight!
Factories that used to run at over capacity and had a total neglect for customer service, suddenly remembered our names and invited us for meetings. Asked "what they could do to help us". Listed to, and even acted upon, our complaints! It was a brief golden age to be a buyer in China for that 18 month period!
But now the "good times" are back! Arriving at the show this morning (ill prepared for the unseasonably cold weather), it took an hour to enter the show! The hoards had returned and were showing a fresh willingness to buy (or at least talk about a willingness to buy).
From my own perspective (research done while standing in line at the unbelievably overcrowded McDonalds in the exhibition center and passing through the corridors) , I could see and build a picture of where and how the global economy is recovering. Present were a large number or Russians and Indians, a fair sprinkling of North and South Americans, people of Middle East origin and a reasonable mix of Europeans. It was light on Africans, and the Brits didnt make their presence too strongly felt!
This dramatic increase in visitor numbers did of course mean the return to the ways of the old days of doing business.
Without painting everyone with a single broad brush, I would have thought that suppliers would have learned to look for quality in customers, but instead they reverted to their default (quantity). Those who talked about building long term strategic relationships during the hard times have decided again that short term planning is better again now. The plethora of buyers from all over the world who fly in do make this thinking very tempting for factories, and that's where it pays off to spend time to select those handful of quality manufacturers who do understand the importance of diplaying and honouring trust and loyalty.
Through the crowds, these few examples do stand out and prove that the potential and the opportunity is there, if you have make the effort and have the patience to look.
What is clear though is that this experience, after more than 10 years, never ceases to amaze me. For 2 weeks, two times a year, the Chinese city of Guangzhou becomes the center of the world. The hoards that come to fill our shops (wherever we are). People from every corner of the globe come and meet and discuss business opportunities. Race, colour and creed all take a back seat for once - and its a beautiful thing to behold!