China offline, online giants hook up for giant seafood concept store opening

A giant new seafood-themed retailing and dining store opened by a leading Chinese retailer in a regional city suggests a milestone for seafood retailing in China, as one of the store’s major investors is a tech giant dominant in meal deliveries and discount group-buying. 

The 7,000-square-meter “Hi Tun Sheng Xian” outlet was opened this week by Beijing-based Beijing Hualian Department Store Co. (commonly known as Hualian) in hitherto unglamorous Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province and one of the country’s faster-growing regional economies. Making the opening doubly interesting is the involvement of the MeiTuan Dianping Group (more commonly known as MeiTuan in China), the dominant player in China’s group-buying and food delivery business. Customers can order Hi Tun Shen Xian deliveries using Meituan’s “Bang Ding” app. 

Opened at the Sun River Plaza mall, the new store allows customers to shop and to eat in, with large areas of fish tanks showcasing live product including lobster and grouper. A large sushi section features Atlantic and Pacific salmon. The store also serves as a logistics hub for fulfilling online orders. Likewise, the store features a large selection of pre-selected, pre-packed ingredients for cooking – fresh vegetable items required for hot-pot dishes, for instance, are stocked in a clear plastic boxes with a recommendation on suitable matching seafood. 

The Beijing-based Hualian group has already been cooperating with Meituan in developing its online business. Hualian has long been one of China’s leading retailers through its network of supermarkets, but like other traditional retailers it has been forced to compete with the entry of tech firms into the market, the most prominent of those being Alibaba, whose Hema Xiansheng outlets look similar in appearance to the new Hi Tun Xian Sheng outlet in Hefei. 

Established in 2010 by serial tech entrepreneur Xing Wang, Meituan became known as China’s leading group-buying website (akin to Groupon) before 2015, when it merged with Dianping, China’s leading restaurants listings site, which had also ventured into meal deliveries. Meituan has purchased China’s largest bike-sharing firm, Mobike, and also has an Uber-style ride service. 

Neither Hualian or Meituan have clarified the precise shareholding structure in the Hi Tun Sheng Xian operation. 


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