US warehouse retailer Costco phases in traffic control because of too many shoppers

By Du Qiongfang in Shanghai and Zhang Hongpei in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/28 17:23:40


Consumers pay their products at the checkout counter in Costco on Wednesday in Shanghai. Photo: Chen Xia/GT

US retail giant Costco announced on its second business day that its first physical store in the Chinese mainland will limit the number of members entering the warehouse to 2,000, effective Wednesday amid frenzied shopping by local consumers.

Due to safety concerns, Costco said it will phase in traffic control from Wednesday. "Local police will assist in improving traffic in the area in order to lessen the disturbance to our neighbors, and we have improved our internal guest-flow system," the US firm said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

An employee of the store told the Global Times on Wednesday, "The number of consumers that visited the store was about one-third of yesterday's."

The US warehouse retailer officially opened Tuesday morning in the Shanghai suburban Minhang District. Within four hours of opening its doors, thousands of Chinese consumers flooded the store in their rush to buy products. It was then shut down at around 2:40 pm, hours before its scheduled closing time, due to heavy traffic flow.

Another employee of Costco told the Global Times that as many as 130,000 people had signed up for store memberships as of Monday night. 

One of the most popular products among Chinese consumers is the luxury liquor Kweichow Moutai. Its Moutai Flying Fairy, with its 53-percent alcohol content, is always considered a hot product that is hard to get on the market. Having been spotted by scalpers these past years, its price has risen as high as 3,000 yuan ($419.12) per bottle, compared with its 1,498-yuan price tag in Costco.

Roughly 100 bottles of Moutai Flying Fairy were displayed in the store on Tuesday and sold out within seconds. "There is no replenishment today," a staff member in the liquor section told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Most customers interviewed by the Global Times in the store said that the food sold in Costco is fresh and cheap, as the price is almost the same if the yuan is converted to US dollars or Australian dollars.

A male surnamed Ma told the Global Times Wednesday that the red wine he selected is 50 yuan cheaper per bottle at round 450 yuan compared with other stores. He bought a dozen bottles of such wine.

"At least 40 percent of the merchandise in Costco is imported," an employee said.

Despite the new crowd-flow measures, the traffic control on Wednesday was not particularly satisfying, as it took more time to enter the store. A consumer told the Global Times that he had waited two hours before he was permitted entry.

Costco made its first foray into the Chinese mainland as early as 2014, when it launched online sales.

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