Asian families celebrate the lunar New Year, which this year falls on Feb. 16, by giving gifts of red envelopes stuffed with cash. Chinese e-Commerce giant Alibaba would have needed envelopes the size of football fields to pay for its pre-New Year purchases: a 15% stake in Beijing Easyhome Furnishing for approximately $867 million, and $486 million for a 38% stake in big data retail firm Shiji Retail Information Technology.
The investments are part of the Alibaba “New Retail” strategy, which includes a stronger focus on data and an acquisition plan to expand the company’s brick-and-mortar footprint. Alibaba purchased a 36% stake in Chinese hypermarket operator Sun Art Retail Group in November 2017, adding to a portfolio that includes a stake in the Suning Commerce Group consumer electronics chain and Intime Retail department stores. Additionally, Alibaba operates the Hema supermarket chain and has invested in Home Times furniture stores in its headquarters city of Hangzhou.
It’s possible Alibaba has other retailers on its shopping list. The retailer had preliminary development talks with U.S. supermarket giant Kroger, according to Reuters. A recent Forbes article speculated that Alibaba may put in a bid for Kroger, noting that Boxed.com recently rejected an acquisition offer from Kroger.
Asian American Supermarket Adds Payment Option
Alibaba also is extending its physical reach via Alipay, the digital payment platform operated by its Ant Financial Services Group. Asian American supermarket iFresh will soon allow shoppers to use Alipay in its nine stores as well as for online purchases. The retailer, which also operates wholesale businesses in cities with highly concentrated Asian populations, will work with CITCON, a cross-border mobile payment and marketing solutions provider that helps connect merchants with Chinese mobile wallet users.
Alipay has steadily been adding retail and financial partners to help facilitate purchases by an increasing flow of Chinese tourists. As many as four million Chinese tourists were expected to visit North America in 2017. Since January 2017, Alipay has:
• Partnered with JPMorgan Chase to allow Alipay users to pay with its mobile app at many Chase Merchant Services clients;
• Partnered with Verifone to enable payments in taxis in New York and Las Vegas; and
• Enabled in-store and online payments at Rebecca Minkoff.
Happy New Year of the Dog!