China’s First Costco Closed Early on Opening Day From Overcrowding, Raucous Behavior

By Daniel Holl
Daniel Holl
Daniel Holl
China reporter
Daniel Holl is a Sacramento, California-based reporter, specializing in China-related topics. He moved to China alone and stayed there for almost seven years, learning the language and culture. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
August 27, 2019Updated: September 7, 2019

After opening its doors for less than five hours, the first Costco in China was forced to close early due to overcrowding and raucous behavior of some customers.

The major American wholesale retailer established its first Chinese store in Shanghai. Doors opened at 9:00 a.m. on Aug. 27, but were closed just after 1:00 p.m., according to Shanghai Times. The opening day was planned to last until 9:30 that evening.

China Costco opening
People try to get a roast chicken at the first Costco outlet during the store’s opening day in Shanghai, China on Aug. 27, 2019. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

The ongoing U.S.-China trade war may have influenced local shoppers to flock to the store for hard-to-find discounts on products like meat and milk powder.

Footage shot with cellphones and uploaded to Chinese social media showed lines of cars in traffic jams, reportedly going as far as 0.3 miles (500 meters) away from the store, according to Shanghai Times.

Photos and videos also show people sneaking past security at the front door, empty carts packed tightly into the aisles, and large crowds grabbing for products.

China Costco opening
Empty carts piled together as people shop in Costco in Shanghai, China on Aug. 27, 2019. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Though there were 22 cashiers opened, the average wait in the check-out lines was reported to be about 30 minutes, according to Shanghai Times.

An unnamed customer shared on Chinese social media that police and security were dispatched inside the shopping warehouse to protect certain goods. “Maotai, fresh beef, fresh pork, and milk powder are all being stolen,” the individual posted online, according to Shanghai Times. Maotai is a famous brand of Chinese liquor.

China Costco opening
Customer picking up meat from Costco in Shanghai, China on Aug. 27, 2019. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

The writer also suggested that despite Chinese people expressing opposition to the United States in the trade war, the reality of their behavior is much different. “Everyone is saying they oppose the United States, but they’re relatively honorable.”

China Costco opening
People visit the first Costco outlet in Shanghai, China on Aug. 27, 2019. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Pork is a staple of the Chinese diet. However, millions of China’s pigs have been culled due to African Swine Fever. This, along with the trade war, have caused pork prices to rise on a daily basis, according to state-run Chinese newspaper Beijing News.

China Costco opening
People browsing the meat section at Costco in Shanghai, China on Aug. 27, 2019. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

China also shows a strong demand for milk powder, which is generally used as baby formula. In June, Chinese warships were used to transport baby formula back to China after an unannounced visit to Sydney, Australia.


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