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Global retailer eyes innovative, bold ideas at Canton Fair

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-10-18 11:15
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Hao Bao and Hao Ni are seen in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Oct 9, 2021. [Photo by Zheng Erqi/]

GUANGZHOU -- As the first batch of visitors to the 130th Canton Fair, Anne Casso and Pierre Petitdemange, sourcing directors from the French multinational retail group Auchan Retail, expect to find new cooperations over the next five days.

The 130th session of the China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, kicked off on Friday in Guangzhou, the capital city of South China's Guangdong province.

Launched in 1957, the fair is seen as a significant barometer of China's foreign trade.

This year's edition has attracted about 8,000 enterprises to set up nearly 20,000 booths. Covering an exhibition area of 400,000 square meters, this is the first time the fair was held both online and offline since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1961, Auchan Retail's business has expanded to 17 countries and regions with over 35,000 employees. Though it mainly serves European customers, the company's products are purchased from all over the world.

The Chinese market has been a major supplier of electronic appliances, toys and footwear for Auchan Retail.

Highly diversified products, competitive prices and constant innovation have made China, "the world's factory," a longstanding contributor of products for the company, noted Petitdemange.

"One can find almost everything in China. Other countries also have factories that specialize in different industries, but when it comes to the largest range of products, China won't fail you," said Petitdemange.

The sudden hit of the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted heavy losses on global trade. But to Petitdemange, Auchan Retail is "very lucky" as their business serves the fundamental needs of residents.

Casso said China, whose production quickly resumed with swift and effective anti-epidemic measures, has offered strong support to the world. It has also driven Auchan Retail to move considerable production back to China. "Chinese factories worked on extra demands to feed the global market, which was challenging, but China did make it," said Casso.

"On the other hand, the ratio of new items (of our company) has been declining for the past one and a half years, because the pandemic has made sourcing more difficult than ever. We value this year's Canton Fair because it's a great chance to meet the suppliers and find out the cutting-edge items," added Petitdemange.

Casso said not only the sourcing team, but their colleagues from the market department also felt "hungry" to come and "sweep" the fair as the show "presents the latest technology and products of the Chinese companies."

Having worked closely with the Chinese suppliers for 13 years, Casso has been a witness to the country's development. What impresses her most, however, is the alter of "made-in-China" products.

"We used to come and find what we need in the past. Now, more frequently, we come to see what's new. Chinese suppliers have gradually built up their own collection of new products with bold ideas and practices. Step by step, they are taking the lead in innovation in the world," Casso said.

In the context of sluggish global economic recovery amid the pandemic, China pursues a path of broadening the scale and quality of opening-up. Casso said the trade volume of China with the European countries has kept rising in the past few years.

Auchan Retail's sourcing team puts more emphasis on eco-friendly products this year. Casso believes this new demand will be properly met by the Chinese suppliers because less emission and less pollution have become guidance for factories after the country made its low-carbon commitment.

Smart appliances that connect with the 5G technology take another large proportion of its sourcing this year.

"We are really looking forward to the Canton Fair, and we hope it will bring us something exciting as always," said Petitdemange.

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