Here's How Costcos In China Differ From American Stores

A routine trip to Costco to stock up on toilet paper, oatmeal cookies, and Kirkland Signature faves like salmon Milano and peanut butter-filled pretzels might be just another errand stateside, but in China, a visit to the members-only mega-mart is another story entirely.

When the first Chinese outpost of the American warehouse store opened its doors in Shanghai in 2019, the influx of eager shoppers was overwhelming to the point of shutting down traffic. Shoppers clamored for those signature rotisserie chickens and eventually, the store had to call in local authorities and call it a day due to the sheer volume of people primed to buy in bulk. Even before Costco madness ensued, the wait time for a parking spot was up to three hours (via CNN Business).

Market Watch has the numbers that back up Costco's popularity in China. While the average Costco boasted around 68,000 members in 2019, China's premier location blew this figure out of the water with a whopping 200,000 card-carrying loyalists signing up within the first few months of the store's opening. With a second Costco in the works for early 2021, the warehouse shopping experience has proved to have staying power within the Chinese market (via Reuters). 

There are a few items that aren't available stateside

People who shop at the mega-mart have a soft spot for the chain's cheap and cheerful food court where hot dogs and pizza are oftentimes the highlights of the experience. Business Insider reports that these Costco classics are on the menu in Shanghai, with a couple of tweaks. Hot dogs are served with a generous helping of relish and sauerkraut and pizza toppings include shrimp. There are a few items that aren't available stateside on Costco's food court menus such as tropical options like mango soft serve and coconut smoothies.

The offerings at China's premier Costco include the go-tos that the chain is known for as well as some unlikely additions that are specific to the region. Reader's Digest noted that the Costco shopping experience holds a certain exclusivity and one of the store's big sellers are lobsters imported from Maine. On the nonedible side of things, Jing Daily reports that designer bags like Hermes sold out during the store's opening days. The rush to get one of these status symbol purses likely has to do with the fact that Costco sells them at a deep discount.

Another only-in-China top seller is Maotai, which is a pricey brand of baijiu, or Chinese spirits. Auction house Christie's explains that the sorghum-based spirit is regionally produced like Champagne and is a staple at Chinese state banquets.