Located in the centre of Tongliao, a city in Inner Mongolia province, the store is the first in a series of new "Western European" style stores, which Kerchin said would be "clean, upscale, elegant, bright" and the "best in the industry". Meat in wet markets and many supermarkets in China is typically sold non-chilled.
The Tongliao opening marks a new phase for a Kerchin, which has already nearly 200 stores nationwide. The new store is painted a solid green with ‘Kerchin Chilled Beef’ in gold lettering in Chinese, English and Mongolian. Located at the south gate of the San Zhong market in downtown Tongliao, the store on the outside looks like a butcher’s shop, but inside many of the cuts of beef and lamb look decidedly Chinese.
Inside, plastic-wrapped shank retails for RMB68/500g, and mince is priced RMB28 to RMB36 per 500g. Steaks and breakfast sausages are priced RMB70-RMB100/500g and RMB41.67 respectively. In many cases the cuts are pre-packaged rather than cut on-site in the manner of a Western butcher’s shop. Meanwhile, a best-seller is the dried ‘jerked beef’ or beef jerky, which is sold in various packaged formats in the store. The dried eat-on-the-go snacks are sold at RMB120-RMB150 per 500g.
In a statement issued to Tongliao media, Kerchin said staff visited butchers’ shops across Western Europe to get the design of the new stores right. Staff, meanwhile, were trained for a half a year. "That’s why we get the wonderful results we see in the Tongliao store," said the statement.
The new-look stores are part of Kerchin’s ‘O2O’ (online to offline) strategy, via which the company pushes sales through online stores like Taobao.com, Tmall.com and food-focused Yihaodian.com while also using its own website and online stores to promote company products and educate consumers on how to cook beef. A member of staff at the Tongliao store explained the strategy: "Attractive stores will draw in consumers and they become familiar with beef, the lifestyle, the products and they will buy them online or offline."
Visitors to the shop meanwhile can apply to visit a giant Kerchin beef processing plant located only 80km from Tongliao. The plant, claimed the company, is the most modern in Asia, fitted with equipment from a German-based firm.
Kerchin has almost 200 stand-alone stores nationwide: the bulk of these are in northerly provinces like Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia and Shandong. But four stores have been opened in Beijing, with one in the trendy Sanlitun entertainment district. A small number of stores have been opened in central and southern provinces like Guangxi and Hunan, where incomes are growing fast.