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Supersized snack store nets super-happy customers

By ZOU SHUO in Changsha | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-28 09:48
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Consumers form a huge line in front of a Lingshi Henmang store in Changsha, Hunan province, during this year's May Day holiday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

For snack lovers, the mega-munchies offered by chain store Lingshi Henmang have made it into a must-visit destination, and the perfect place to spend some leisure time and post pictures on social media platforms.

Supersized Lay's potato chips packaged in 1.5-meter-tall boxes and Oreo cookies that are seemingly too big to carry — these are some of the unique products that have made the Lingshi Henmang stores popular with youngsters.

Hashtags about these have garnered millions of views on social media platforms, with armies of enthusiastic consumers heading to the stores in Changsha, Hunan province.

Pictures of customers carrying the snack-filled boxes generate a sizable number of online views and draw questions from netizens about where to buy them.

The brand opened its first store selling these big snacks in Changsha in January. After being flooded by customer queries, it opened another branch in the city in March.

The supersized snacks, which typically sell for around 100 yuan ($13.84), contain a dozen packs of normal-sized munchies as well as other side products from the companies.

For example, a supersized Oreo cookie package contains 14 smaller packs weighing 97 grams each, plus a random gift. With Gonzo potato chips, which sell for 78 yuan, you get a gift plus 15 packs of chips weighing 35 grams each.

During the Labor Day holiday, the two stores brought in 7.15 million yuan from the novel snacks, with the highest daily sales volume topping 910,000 yuan, the company said. Customers usually have to wait for more than two hours to enter the store.

Chen Zhiyang, head of the Super Lingshi Henmang store, said it did not expect so many visitors during the holiday.

"Many people came to take pictures from all over the country," he said. "There were also deliverymen waiting outside the store to help customers from other cities carry the snacks back home."

Yuan Xiang, from Anhua county, Hunan, bought more than 600 yuan worth of snacks from the store.

However, these were not meant for eating, but for decorating her sports training company for children.

"They love to see the snacks in big boxes, so the snacks can bring us more business," she said.

Seventeen-year-old high school student He Zeyang took a leave from school to visit the store. He also brought his cousin, a kindergarten pupil. After taking pictures, they bought several types of large snacks.

"The snacks are very novel and also unconventional, (they) give me a sense of fulfillment. No kid can leave the store empty-handed."

Founded in 2017 in Hunan, Lingshi Henmang operates more than 5,000 franchised snack stores nationwide, which received more than 340 million visitors last year, said Xie Hai, who works at the company's public relations department.

Aiming to become a "people's snack store", the company sells snacks at rates cheaper than those offered by ordinary convenience stores and tries to entice customers to buy in bulk with competitive prices, he said.

Meanwhile, the company only has brick-and-mortar stores and has not yet engaged in e-commerce.

All of its stores are decorated in bright and warm yellow hues with a large storefront to attract the attention of customers, he said.

"Even with the prevalence of online shopping in China, we still want to make people buy snacks at physical stores," he said. "When they come to our stores and see well-arranged snacks in large numbers — many of which kindle sweet childhood memories — they cannot resist buying them, and shopping becomes a happy experience."

To meet the demand for large-sized snacks, the company plans to open a third supersized store selling snacks in Changsha by the end of this month.

It currently sells more than 120 types of supersized snacks and is working with other snack companies to expand choices, he said.

Yi Lijun, PR manager at the company, said the success of Lingshi Henmang could not have been possible without the support of the local government and its efforts to build Changsha into a popular travel destination across social media platforms.

Hunan has many snack companies, which are major suppliers of products sold at its stores, he said.

The local government has also issued many favorable policies for new consumption companies and created a great business environment for the company, he said.

Jiang Jianxin, 40, buys supersized snacks for customers from other regions who find it too troublesome to travel to Changsha.

He sells the snacks at higher prices than the store and forwards them to customers via convenient delivery services.

"We saw the business opportunity as there are no official online stores and started to work full-time as 'snack buying agents' since March," he said.

"Young people like new, big-sized things and the catchy snacks are perfect to post on social media. I believe and hope the stores stay popular for a long time, so I can also make some money from it."

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