News World Chaos as shoppers flock to China’s first Costco outlet

Chaos as shoppers flock to China’s first Costco outlet

costco shanghai chaos
Customers try to get a roast chicken in the frenzied first hours of Costco's new Shanghai outlet. Photo: Getty
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Costco opened its first outlet in China on Tuesday, only to be so overwhelmed with shoppers that it had to shut the doors within hours.

State media reports that huge crowds flocked to the shop in Shanghai’s Minhang district, causing neighbourhood traffic jams.

Videos posted on Chinese media show thousands of people crowding the aisles of the outlet, while signs outside warned incoming shoppers they would have to wait three hours to even get a car park.

costco shanghai chaos
A warning sign outside the new shop on Tuesday. Photo: Shanghaiist

One nearby school sent out an advisory to parents warning them about the traffic conditions. “Please expect the student dismissal this afternoon to be severely delayed due to the grand opening of Costco Supermarket,” it said.

Shoppers also had to wait in half-hour queues to checkout, according to Chinese blog Shanghaiist.

It said Costco members were sent text messages during the day urging them to avoid the shop at peak hours and then, by 2pm, not to come at all.

costco shanghai chaos
Parts of the store were packed with people almost immediately after it opened. Photo: Getty

The shop shut in the afternoon after official warnings about the traffic it was generating.

“Because there is a high concentration of people around the newly opened supermarket, for the safety of the public we recommend that residents consume in a reasonable manner,” state-run media outlet The Paper quoted Shanghai government officials saying in an official notice.

The US big-box retailer is the latest overseas chain to try its luck in China’s fast-growing consumer market. The Costco opening came less than a week after US President Donald Trump ordered American businesses to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China” as the trade war between the two nations intensified.

But the new shop was definitely a winner with Shanghai consumers. There was a long queue outside early on Tuesday morning, and – once the doors opened – some parts of the outlet were quickly so full they were impossible to get into immediately.

Costco’s own-brand baked goods, such as muffins, were among the most popular items.

“There are discounts as the business is opening now. Meat is cheap here,” Rick Zhou, 31, who drove for more than an hour to the Shanghai shop, told the Financial Times.

“Milk powder is very cheap and meat is cheaper than the average supermarket,” said a 60-year-old man Mr Wang, who spent $251 at the store, adding: “New Zealand apples are also well-priced.”

-with agencies