A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Costco Just Opened Their First Warehouse in China—Here’s What People Can’t Stop Buying

Updated: Jul. 26, 2021

The first-ever Costco store in China made headlines in August when it received such a massive surge of shoppers that it was forced to close early. While so many of Costco's products are worth buying, which ones are people finding especially appealing?

1 / 8
Costco opens first store in mainland China, Shanghai - 31 Aug 2019
WU HONG/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

China’s first Costco

In August 2019, the first-ever Costco in the world’s most populous country debuted. The store, located in Shanghai, opened its doors on August 27, hoping for a successful first day. And it was a success, all right—countless news outlets reported that the opening day saw unprecedented numbers of people and was something of a free-for-all. In fact, at around quarter to three in the afternoon, the store announced that it would be closing early—people already there could finish shopping but no one new would be allowed in.

So, we know the irresistible appeal of Costco and that there are scores of things that draw shoppers in. But what, specifically, is driving such big numbers? While it was difficult to glean which products were most popular in such a chaotic situation, these few products have continued to come up as big sellers.

2 / 8
raw chicken legs package isolated on white background

Chicken and meat

A reporter for Business Insider who attended the Costco opening called the meat section “sheer chaos,” with throngs of people trying to get their hands on meat products. According to the Financial Times, it has to do with how inexpensive meat is at Costco and the fact that the products were even more discounted than usual for the grand opening. And, of course, those scrumptious Costco chickens were a huge draw, to the point where “shoppers pushed and shoved for access to the freshly cooked rotisserie chickens as staff pleaded with buyers to form a line,” AFP reported. Here’s how Costco is able to make those chickens both so cheap and so tasty.

3 / 8
Vitalina Rybakova/shutterstock


In addition to meat, produce was a major seller for the new Chinese Costco. In fact, sources reported that the fresh food section, in particular, was the toughest to get into because of all the crowds.

4 / 8
Vitalina Rybakova/shutterstock


Shanghai shoppers viewed the new Costco as a rather “exclusive” shopping spot, due to the membership, as well as a place to get high-end items they couldn’t get anywhere else. One of these hot commodities was lobsters—Maine lobsters, no less, a luxurious seafood treat. Images abound of customers inspecting both whole lobsters and chilled claws.

5 / 8
Milan, Italy – February 22, 2019: Prada leather handbag in a luxury store in Milan, February 2019.
Creative Lab/shutterstock

Brand-name bags

Here’s another high-end item that the Shanghai Costco put on prominent display to appeal to customers. Yahoo Finance displayed images of luxurious handbags, from very posh brands such as Chanel, Burberry, and Prada, lined up on tiered tables. And while you actually can’t get these at U.S. Costcos, there are plenty of bizarre things you didn’t know you could find at Costco.

6 / 8
Closeup of a group of assorted cookies. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate fill the frame.
Steve Cukrov/shutterstock


Several sources, including Fortune, attribute the success of this Costco (at least in part) to its location in a suburban area of Shanghai, where members of China’s growing middle-class drive cars and stand to benefit from buying in bulk. It specifically mentions “30-pack boxes of cookies,” so in addition to meat and produce, goodies are also likely a big seller for hungry shoppers. The specific “cookies” mention is probably just a specific call-out representing big sales for many different bulk home and food products, but we can still imagine lots of shoppers stocking their carts with cookies.

7 / 8
detergent for a laundry washer


A video from TIME shows customers buying up jugs of laundry detergent, emptying out a level of a cardboard fixture in seconds. Home necessities get lots of attention from Costco shoppers—in fact, we bet you can guess what their best-selling item of all time is.

8 / 8
Costco opens first store in mainland China, Shanghai - 31 Aug 2019
WU HONG/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Why the success?

Part of the shocking aspect of the store’s success, in addition to the store-closing crowd surge, is the fact that international retailers so often fail miserably when they attempt to come to China. But Costco isn’t entirely new to the Chinese market. It’s had an online presence in the Asian nation for five years now, thanks to Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, which sells its Kirkland products. Costco also did a fantastic job advertising their new store, as well as offering products that it can otherwise be difficult to come by in China. Time will tell whether the store continues to be a hit—but the fact that Costco is now planning to open a second Chinese store certainly seems like a good sign. Even Costco regulars might not know about these things you’re not buying there, but should be.