Costco limits shoppers in first China store after opening-day fiasco

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Costco Wholesale Corp COST.O said it will limit the number of shoppers at its new China store after overcrowding forced the U.S. big box retailer to shut it early on the opening day.

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No more than 2,000 shoppers at any given time will be allowed into the store in a Shanghai suburb, Costco’s first in China, and local police will help to improve the flow of traffic near the store, it said on Wednesday.

Large crowds had flocked to the store when it opened on Tuesday, causing traffic jams in the neighborhood.

Viral images online showed shoppers clambering to get in, jostling with others to snag roasted chickens and meat, and waiting in huge lines to check out.

“We’d like to apologize for the inconvenience caused to our members on our warehouse opening day in Shanghai,” Costco said in a statement posted on WeChat, the Chinese social media platform.

It pledged to send text messages to members when the store was nearing capacity or if there are long wait times.

Snaking queues and frenzied buying are not uncommon when new stores open or trendy new products hit the market in China.

Consumers lined up for hours to buy hamburgers at Shake Shack SHAK.N when it opened its first China store in Shanghai earlier this year, and scalpers reportedly held places in line or hawked burgers at huge markups.

German supermarket chain Aldi also experienced long lines of shoppers when it opened two stores in Shanghai in June, which were also its first in China.

Local media said the Costco store in Shanghai, unlike other supermarkets which mainly sell fresh food and daily necessities, also offered products such as handbags from luxury brands Prada 1913.HK and Chanel as well as high-end foreign beauty products.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman