Five-foot Toy Story 3 bear draws the crowds at Costco’s first store in ‘China’s Silicon Valley’

SHENZHEN, Jan. 12, 2024  People shop at the new store of Costco in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Jan. 12, 2024. U.S. retail giant Costco Wholesale on Friday opened a new store in the city of Shenzhen, which is the sixth Costco store on the Chinese mainland. (Credit Image: © Liang Xu/Xinhua via ZUMA Press)

Shoppers at the new Costco store in Shenzhen, in southern China’s Guangdong Province, on January 12, 2024.Liang Xu/Xinhua/Zuma PressHong KongCNN — 

More than four years after Costco’s first store in the country caused a stir, shoppers in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen this week flocked to the US retailer’s latest outlet on Chinese shores.

Costco unveiled its new 44,500-square-meter store in the city often dubbed China’s “Silicon Valley” on Friday, drawing large crowds in search of bargains and imported products.

It’s the US retailer’s sixth store in the world’s second biggest economy, but its first foray along the southern coast of the country, which is home to the headquarters of Chinese tech giants like Tencent and DJI and a rapidly growing middle class. Shenzhen alone has a population of more than 17 million and, in 2022, a GDP of $460 billion, according to its local government.

Among the more popular products on offer at the Costco opening were discounted fruits, such as cherries and berries, and the Chinese spirit Moutai, according to shoppers who spoke to CNN.

People line up outside the Costco store in Shenzhen, China, during its launch on January 12, 2024.

People line up outside the Costco store in Shenzhen, China, during its launch on January 12, 2024.Vivien_4freedom/Xiaohongshu

Many had waited in line for more than an hour to get in.

Images on Chinese social media showed customers filling the isles of the 15,000-square-meter shopping space, many with trolleys loaded to the brim.

Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, a fluffy villain from Pixar’s Toy Story 3, was also in high demand.

Social media was awash with images of people taking home the giant version of the bear, measuring five feet tall. A smaller version, less than half the size, sold out within hours.

“I didn’t expect to see so many people,” Kim Lin, one of the first shoppers to enter on Friday, told CNN.

Lin, who had waited in line for an hour, said she was impressed because the staff helped her get fruit from a high shelf.

“There are shop managers passing us the cherries and it was so gentlemanly of them,” she said.

Shoppers snatch up plush toys of Lots-o-Huggin' Bear from the Costco store in Shenzhen during its launch on January 12, 2024.

Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear was among the more popular products on offer at the Costco store in Shenzhen during its launch on January 12, 2024.279648307/Xiaohongshu

Another patron Olin Wang praised the selection on offer. “I feel like Costco is quite special because it imports brands you can’t find elsewhere,” she said.

In China, Costco faces intense competition from online shopping platforms, such as Taobao and Pinduoduo, in a market where consumers are accustomed to online retail. It also faces competition from rival US brands like Sam’s Club, which is owned by Walmart. Sam’s Club has four branches in Shenzhen already.

When Costco opened its first store in Shanghai in 2019, it had to shut down early on its first day after it was overwhelmed by the number of shoppers.

Chaotic scenes saw people lining up for hours, crawling under the shop gates and wrestling for bags and rotisserie chickens. Traffic on surrounding roads came to a standstill, with vehicles clogging up the streets in line for the parking lot.

Since then, Costco has expanded in China but mostly near Shanghai, the country’s economic and financial hub, where there are two stores.

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