Jingjing Ma
Aug 28, 2019

China's first Costco closes shortly after opening

A victim of its own success, the 20,000-square-meter supermarket closed early after being overrun by eager—and in some cases overly eager—consumers.

View of Costco Wholesale's first China store in Shanghai's Minhang District (Shutterstock)
View of Costco Wholesale's first China store in Shanghai's Minhang District (Shutterstock)

Trade war? What trade war? US-China tensions had no apparent impact on the China debut of US wholesale chain Costco in Shanghai on Tuesday. In fact, the store was forced to shut down early because of huge crowds fighting for a limited supply of goods and clogging the roads around the store.

The 20,000-square-meter supermarket is located in suburban Minhang district—about 30 kilometers from downtown, in an area not served by mass transit. But this didn’t deter passionate consumers, as the shopping mania resembled a US Black Friday sale.

The store's parking lot filled quickly. (Source: Weibo user)

Pictures and videos going viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo showed that several roads near Costco and its parking lot had been clogged up with cars early on Tuesday morning, with a sign warning of a three-hour wait for a spot.

In front of almost every shelf, consumers were seen crazily fighting for goods from laundry detergent to Hermès’ popular Birkin bags. Two-hour-long checkout queues developed, even though 22 counters were open. Tensions rose over people jumping the queue, according to reports. As seen in the Tiktok video below, widely shared on social media, shoppers literally could not wait for the store's doors to open, and the desire to secure a bargain led some to tear apart raw pork with their bare hands.

The store announced it was closing at 1 pm because it was "clogged up with too many consumers.”

In fact, due to several months of promotions, Costco accumulated a large number of members in Shanghai. According to media reports, the store attracted tens of thousands of members since the launch of membership applications on July 1, far exceeding expectations. The affordable RMB199 (US$27.80) annual membership fee—raised to RMB299 (US$41.80) after the store opened—contributed to the strong response.

Long queues for check-out. (Source: Weibo user)

Shoppers apparently found the cost of membership to be worth it. Domestically famous Kweichow Moutai liquor was priced at RMB1,498 (US$209), about RMB500 (US$70) cheaper than on e-commerce marketplace Tmall. And #CostcoMoutaisoldout became a trending topic on Weibo, attracting more than 53 million views and nearly 5,000 discussions.

A Weibo user named “豆元的好爸爸” commented, “So low price! If I were in Shanghai, I would also f**king rush to Costco. Don’t pretend you don’t care about prices. The Chinese market has such strong consumption power! Let’s see which brand is willing to abandon the market?!”

Limited supply of Moutai liquor at Costco Shanghai store. (Source: Weibo user)


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