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Costco cuts short China debut after shoppers swamp store

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Costco in Canada. flickr/opengridscheduler/

(AFP) – US retailer Costco was forced to cut short the opening day of its inaugural mainland China outlet over safety worries yesterday after huge crowds of bargain-hunters swamped the store in suburban Shanghai.

The massive warehouse outlet issued a notice to users of its official app in the early afternoon saying that it would no longer allow more customers through the doors, citing an “overcrowding” situation inside the store and traffic chaos in surrounding areas.

Earlier in the day, an AFP journalist observing the store’s opening witnessed frantic scenes as thousands of shoppers jostled to get their hands on everything from fresh meat to big-screen TVs and giant teddy bears.

“Due to overcrowding in the market, and in order to provide you with a better shopping experience, Costco will temporarily close on the afternoon of August 27. Please avoid coming,” the notification said.

In a text message to AFP, a spokesman for Costco said the doors were shut to new incoming customers but that those inside would be allowed to finish shopping.

Analysts have warned Costco’s model may struggle in a market that has been tough on foreign food retailers but shoppers descended on the outlet in droves as soon as the doors opened, prompting staff to move them into the store in phased groups to maintain order.

But they continued to flow in, leading to shopping cart gridlock throughout the store, especially in more popular areas such as the food section, where people scrambled to get their hands on meat and other produce.

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