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Kenyan influencers now divided over the China Square hype

Prior to finding itself in the sights and cross hairs with the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry, Honorable Moses Kuria, China Square was the latest shopping destination gaining prominence and traction with Kenyans because of influencers.

Many lifestyle influencers flocked to the retail store where imported home furnishings including decors, utensils, electronics and toys among others were being sold at extremely cheaper prices compared to other retailers who sold similar items at top shilling.

Also read: Kenya Square: Inside government’s grand plans to counter China Square

Kenyans flocked to the retail shopping outlet and as CS Kuria targeted the store for allegedly taking away jobs from local retailers, the Square’s owners revealed they made Sh 10 million on a bad day.

A security guard walking towards the entrance of China Square in Nairobi on February 27, 2023. The Chinese owned outlet has closed its doors indefinitely amid an uproar from competitors over low-priced goods. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

Also read: Chinese Embassy in Nairobi breaks silence on China Square business row

As China Square thanked Kenyans for patronizing their store in their thousands to the point of customers being locked out- a phenomenon attributed to influencers making YouTube content for their channels- this would later become a double-edged sword as China Square owners claimed influencers had made misleading statements online.

China Square, in a statement dated March 2, 2023, during their week-long closure as they held discussions with the Kenyan government, said that misleading statements and being overrated by customers on the internet had misled people with unrealistic expectations; and needed to close down to give the store a cooling period.

Shoppers at China Square in Nairobi. The Chinese owned supermarket has closed its doors indefinitely amid an uproar from competitors over low priced goods. PHOTOS | SIMON CIURI and EVANS HABIL

A week after being shut down by the government, China Square re-opened with new public safety measures in place.

On the first day, thousands of customers flocked to the retail store again as service lanes leading up to the Unicity Mall became parking lots with customers’ vehicles. The hype surrounding the goods being sold at China Square increased twofold, but this time, a section of Kenyan influencers claimed that China Square, despite selling unique items, was not worth all the hype.

Also read: Moses Kuria deletes tweet on China Square as owner closes shop indefinitely

“If you haven’t gone to China Square, you need to listen to this. It’s extremely crowded and then the prices are a bit messed up because people are moving items from one shelf to the next so you see something is about Sh 300 but when you go to the counter, you find it is about Sh 1500 or Sh 3000 because people have mixed up the prices,” began influencer Shorn Arwa.

She also said she had to leave the things she had picked for purchase because the lines at the till were too long for her to manage. She claimed that she had been in position 100 thereabout in the queue and she opted to go back home because of being overcrowded and potentially unsafe.

China Square Mall in Nairobi. PHOTO: COURTESY

Many of Shorn’s viewers agreed with her views, saying that they had gone to China Square and found the same items sold in Kamkunji and Eastleigh were the same at China Square; and felt underwhelmed. They also complained of the retail store being stuffy with poor ventilation to cater to the massive crowds it was attracting.

Another influencer, Kiki Bronze, said the big crowds at China Square were because of trends and advised those who did not like crowds to wait three weeks to lapse so they could shop in peace when the hype had died down.

Also read: Government to raise taxes on cheaper imports amid China square row

“You’re seeing many people at the checkout counter because most people are impulse buyers. These people don’t need what they are buying, but because they went to China Square and found that things are cute, they felt like buying them even if they hadn’t budgeted for the shopping trip.

She also reminded people that China Square is a retail shop and not a supermarket like other supermarket brands in the country and that those claiming China Square was not a cheap place did not know where to source items in the country.

“While you will see some people saying that China Square is not cheap, it’s because these people know what is actually out there. Me and others know what is out there so we compare it with market price and we note that some things are not cheap. China Square does have nice stuff though,” added Kiki Bronze.

She also advised potential shoppers to have eaten a good meal, wear comfortable shoes and carry something to drink because the retail shop was huge and it would take someone hours to complete one shopping trip.

Also read: Moses Kuria calls for ‘take over’ of China Square from Chinese traders