China Square, a new wholesale and retail store located at Kenyatta University’s UniCity Mall along Thika Road has been the talk of town for the past few weeks.
The retailer officially began operations in Kenya on January 29, and barely a month into operation; they have been on the lips of almost all Nairobians.
What started as customer experience – shared by a few TikTokers and content creators turned China Square into an internet sensation.
We caught up with China Square Director Lei Cheng for insights on how he has managed to conquer the Kenyan market within a very short period.
“We officially opened on January 29, 2023, and for the first two weeks the business was very quiet until last week when we got a bit popular online and everybody was coming to our store,” he said.
Cheng was quick to attribute the success and virality of his store to a few TikTokers and content creators who shared their experiences after shopping at the facility.
“The business went very busy suddenly, since last Saturday, after bloggers and TikToker’s videos went viral.
“So many people came into the store and at first, we did not even how to handle the traffic at the tie and it caused some queues but we have tried to improve by adding some more tills. People actually tripled and even on weekdays, we had not expected so many people but our store was full.”
The China Square director went on to confess that he is fully aware that the traffic being witnessed at his store is temporary.
“This is a temporary scene, as most of the people here are from the videos that went viral on TikTok. So, maybe a week or two then everything goes back to normal. It is the temporary effect of the posts going viral, just like when people love a song for a certain time then after forget about it,” he added.
What will you say is the main reason for people coming to your store apart from the viral videos?
“The first time we came into the Kenyan market we were looking at the prices and the Kenyan products are very expensive. We are established in several countries but the Kenyan prices are very high compared to others and I was very surprised.
“That’s why we said we are going to bring some products here so that the customers can see how products are selling internationally and how the prices are supposed to be and don’t pay for overpriced stuff.”
During our conversation, Mr Cheng mentioned that the retail shop is still moving things (Products) in margins.
“We are putting low margins on our products and all selling items and also our strategy is right and people are really enjoying this. We are trying to offer better services, as we improve on them but I will say also our prices are a big score,”.
Where do you get your products from? We then posed the question to Cheng.
“We get our products from all over the world, some stuff are from China, Turkey and also local manufacturers. Like pour furniture, stationaries, Tissues and all that are sourced locally. So it’s a combination of importation and local.
Our success is that we always try to minimize emergencies and that’s why people realize we are much cheaper.”
Mr Cheng says that he has been in the retail business for the last five years and China Square Limited has branches in 13 other African countries.
“We have branches in South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Mali, and Côte d'Ivoire among others.”
At one point Cheng was forced to defend his entry into the Kenyan market after Trade CS Moses Kuria raised questions about his business model.
“My business is legal and is centered on healthy competition. We followed all government requirements for setting up a business and we are here to break monopolies,” he said.
Due to the high number of customers that have been flocking to China Square, Cheng divulged that on a bad day, they make about Sh10 million.
They were able to make over Sh20 million within the first two weeks of going viral. Lei blamed his accusers saying they were out to perpetuate the continued exploitation of the Kenyan consumer by rogue businesspersons.