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Flash-express shows way to biz prosperity

Such warehouses have no specific requirements for location, thereby cutting costs

By ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-02 09:33
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A staff member prepares orders at a Feixiang Convenience Store in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. ZHOU HUIYING/CHINA DAILY

"You have a new Meituan takeaway order, please prepare for it."

Each day, as this message gets played repeatedly on a loudspeaker, staff members at Feixiang Convenience Store in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, busy themselves, packing commodities according to their serial numbers and waiting for the delivery partners to pick them up.

Teaming up with a childhood friend, 35-year-old Sun Zhang opened their first flash-express warehouse — an emerging business model for instant retail delivery — in the ice and snow city in March last year, and named it Feixiang.

Flash-express warehouses essentially sell all their goods online via deliveries.

The partners opened their 10th store on March 20, and plan to open two more in April.

"The store has no specific location requirements, which may help us save on expenses such as rent and wages. Relying on online platform Meituan for sales and delivery, we can achieve an average delivery time of about half an hour per order, with deliveries covering a radius of about five kilometers. Moreover, unlike most traditional retail stores that close at night, our stores are open 24 hours a day," Sun said.

China's leading online delivery platform Meituan began the flash-express warehouse in 2020, mainly focusing on fast-moving consumer goods and general merchandise.

Each warehouse covers an area of about 200 square meters with an average of 4,000 to 5,000 stock keeping units, according to Meituan.

Before the flash-express warehouse was set up, Sun had achieved success from his community group buying business in Harbin.

"With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers urgently needed a shopping model where they could place an order one day and pick up the goods from nearby convenience stores the next day," said Sun. "Community group buying could meet their needs, so I made my first pot of gold."

"The fast-paced life returned after the pandemic and people are no longer satisfied with next-day delivery, especially young customers," he said. "Therefore, at the end of 2022, I decided to close my community group buying business and put all my efforts into instant retail."

In the following months, Sun and his partner visited flash-express warehouses in cities such as Beijing, Wuhan in Hubei province and Guangzhou in Guangdong province.

On March 28 of last year, they opened the first Feixiang Convenience Store in Harbin's Songbei district.

After just three months, Sun's business venture began to make a profit. They subsequently opened eight more stores, including seven in Harbin and one in Shenyang, Liaoning province, by the end of 2023.

"Big data from Meituan can help us determine the category of goods and the timing of stocking," said Sun. "The variety of goods in the stores has now expanded to more than 6,000, from sewing kits and hardware accessories, to quilts, electric appliances, breakfast foods and beer.

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