Costco’s first day in China gets wild
The increasingly acrimonious U.S./China trade war didn’t seem to have an impact on the opening of Costco’s first store in China earlier this week. In fact, the first location was so slammed that it had to close early on its first day to prevent pandemonium.
The opening Tuesday quickly became a mob scene, according to CNN Business. Police were called in to restore order. Costco may owe this response in part to being not entirely unknown in China. For five years, the Seattle-based retailer has been building an e-commerce presence through a partnership with Alibaba.
Video footage of the opening of the Shanghai location on YouTube recalls, at some points, the alarming scenes of doorbusters in the U.S. during Black Friday’s heyday. In one clip, a crowd of customers waiting shove at the store’s metal shutter and duck under it before it is fully raised. In another, they push and jostle to grab rotisserie chickens while store staff attempt to restore calm.
The enthusiastic opening comes against the backdrop of a possible backlash by Chinese consumers against American brands due to tensions caused by the escalating trade war.
Last Friday, President Donald Trump in a tweet threatened to raise tariffs even higher and ordered U.S. companies to exit China after Beijing unveiled retaliatory tariffs. The White House later softened an impromptu exit order by characterizing the tweet as “asking American companies to take … a fresh look at frankly moving out of China.”
Major U.S. firms from Walt Disney, Apple and Nike to Boeing and Tesla all have significant interests in China. Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC are aggressively expanding to meet the needs of China’s expanding middle class.
While Costco’s first-day chaos may appear to signal enthusiasm for U.S. retailers in China, at least one that has been there for some time appears to be a shadow of its stateside self.
Walmart has been in the country since 1996, but its growth has stalled at 400 stores, according to Business Insider. Visiting a Beijing location last year, journalist Harrison Jacobs characterized a Walmart store as dingy — at odds with the Chinese market’s expectations that U.S. retailers will provide high-quality shopping experiences.
- Costco’s first China store was so popular it shut down traffic. But can it keep the buzz going? – CNN Business
- Customer chaos as China’s first Costco shop opens – The Star Online (YouTube)
- Photos reveal what it’s like to shop at Walmart in China — which is shockingly different from the US and struggling to compete – Business Insider
- Can Trump force U.S. companies out of China? – CBS News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think Costco received such a strong initial reception in China? Do you see the trade war impacting China’s appetite for U.S. stores or brands?