China’s tech firms rush to deliver solutions for grocery shopping

Nearly all of China’s largest internet firms have established a presence in online grocery. Just this week, news arrived that Alibaba co-led the $196 million C3 funding round of Nice Tuan, the two-year-old grocery group-buying firm’s fourth round year to date.

People in China shop online for almost everything, including groceries. At first, grocery e-commerce appears to have caught on mainly among the digitally-savvy who have grown reliant on the convenience of e-commerce and don’t mind paying a bit more for delivery. Many elderly shoppers, on the other hand, still prefer visiting traditional wet markets where ingredients are generally cheaper.

Now tech companies in China are scrambling to capture grocery shoppers of all ages. A new business model that’s getting a lot of funding is that of Nice Tuan, the so-called community group buying.

In conventional grocery e-commerce, an intermediary platform like Alibaba normally connects individual shoppers to an array of merchants and offers doorstep delivery, which arrives normally within an hour in China.

A community group-buying, in comparison, relies on an army of neighborhood-based managers — often housewives looking for part-time work — to promote products amongst neighbors and tally their orders in group chats, normally through the popular WeChat messenger. The managers then place the group orders with suppliers and have the items delivered to pick-up spots in the community, such as a local convenience store.

It’s not uncommon to see piles of grocery bags at corner stores wating to be fetched these days, and the model has inspired overseas Chinese entrepreneurs to follow suit in America.

Even in China where e-commerce is ubiquitous, the majority of grocery shopping still happens offline. That’s changing quickly. The fledgling area of grocery group-buying is growing at over 100% year-over-year in 2020 and expected to reach 72 billion yuan ($11 billion) in market size, according to research firm iiMedia.

It sounds as if grocery group-buying and self-pickup is a step back in a world where doorstep convenience is the norm. But the model has its appeal. Texting orders in a group chat is in a way more accessible for the elderly, who may find Chinese e-commerce apps, often overlaid with busy buttons and tricky sales rules, unfriendly. With bulk orders, sales managers might get better bargains from suppliers. If a group-buying company is ambitious, it can always add last-mile delivery to its offering.

Chinese tech giants are clearly bullish about online grocery and diversifying their portfolios to make sure they have a skin in the game. Tencent is an investor in Xingsheng Youxuan, Nice Tuan’s major competitor. Food delivery service Meituan has its own grocery arm, offering both the traditional digital grocer as well as the WeChat-based group-buy model. E-commerce upstart Pinduoduo similarly supports grocery group purchases. Alibaba itself already operates the Hema supermarket, which operates both online and offline markets.

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While Training Continues, China’s Prized Women’s Hockey Players Are in Russia

The players most crucial to Chinese women’s ice hockey reside in a hotel about 70 miles south of Moscow. The quasi resort’s expansive grounds contain horses, stray cats and a speleochamber — a salt cave designed to improve breathing.

That these players are in Russia and not Beijing, 3,600 miles away, symbolizes how far China, whose women’s ice hockey team last qualified for the Olympics in 2010, has moved away from its grand plans in the sport.

“Not seeing it come to fruition and deviate is a disappointment,” said Maddie Woo, who was recruited to play in China and occasionally skated with China’s national team over the past three years. “There was so much potential. There still is. It’s just the time sensitivity of it now. It’s shocking.”

Woo was one of several North Americans of Chinese descent who signed in 2017 with the newly formed Kunlun Red Star, a team now known as the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. With China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, the national governing body, assigned the club to manage the women’s national team.

KRS hired Woo and other players to be sport ambassadors, training and playing alongside less experienced Chinese nationals in hopes of elevating the homegrown players’ skills.

In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Billy Ngokposited that players like Woo might become Chinese citizens, making them eligible for the Olympic team. For the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, host South Korea deployed a similar tactic, although China has stricter passport policies.

Now, just 15 months before the opening ceremony — when teams begin paring their rosters — the North American imports would ideally be with the Chinese nationals in Beijing, where a training bubble has been set up by the hockey association.

Claire Liu, the general manager of KRS, attributed the separation to the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel into China. But current and former KRS players and coaches added that communication between them and the hockey association had diminished to sporadic messages passed along by a bilingual intermediary.

Rachel Llanes, a Filipino-American forward who also hopes to represent China, said she still trains as if she’s “on call” for the national team. For now, Llanes plays only for KRS in Russia’s Zhenskaya Hockey League with six North Americans of Chinese descent who harbor similar Olympic dreams. In the 2019-20 season, KRS won the league title, but this year the team has had 10 games rescheduled because of the pandemic.

“I hope to be at the Olympics, but I know it’s not guaranteed,” Llanes said. “If you’re banking on it, I don’t recommend thinking that way. If we don’t get called, we’ll get four years of experience no one else can say they had.”

Since 2017, KRS has invested millions to create an environment uncommon in women’s hockey. Digit Murphy, an American who had coached in college and the professional ranks, was hired to lead the women’s program. She enticed recruits with a simple, yet novel, approach.

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online shopping becoming China’s new normal as record sales build on pandemic boost

a person sitting at a table in front of a box: In the first three quarters of 2020, online sales in China grew 15.1 per cent compared with a year earlier. Photo: Weibo

In the first three quarters of 2020, online sales in China grew 15.1 per cent compared with a year earlier. Photo: Weibo

Online shopping is becoming increasingly commonplace in Chinese consumers’ lives, and nowhere was that more evident than the Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza that peaked on Wednesday.

E-commerce had already seen a massive boost this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, with shoppers reluctant or unable to venture out to bricks-and-mortar stores.

Singles’ Day – the November 11 celebration that gets its name from the four ones in 11.11 – annually generates far more revenue than that of the comparable Black Friday in the United States. And this year, Singles’ Day built on the momentum of past years to once again post record sales.

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With about seven weeks still remaining in the year, 2020 looks to shatter the previous annual high-water marks for online sales, which have undoubtedly been the saving grace of overall Chinese consumer spending this year.

In the first three quarters, overall retail sales fell 7.2 per cent year on year, as in-store sales plunged 13.4 per cent from the same period in 2019. But online sales remained resilient, growing 15.1 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Furthermore, online sales accounted for 24.3 per cent of all sales in the first nine months of the year. That was an increase from the 20.7 per cent proportion held by online sales for all of last year, and their 18.4 per cent share in 2018. Analysts expect the proportion of online retail sales to grow further this year, marking the seventh straight year of gains.

Even though China has largely recovered from the coronavirus health crisis, disincentives for shopping in stores remain. Health and safety restrictions are still in place, especially in public areas, throughout the country.

Yu Tian, a public relations manager in Beijing, said she has been mostly eating at home rather than going out. But she continues to shop online.

“I don’t think the outbreak has changed the way I shop as much. I was already shopping online regularly,” she said. “It’s more convenient, and it’s less tiring” than shopping at malls.

US-based research firm eMarketer, in its latest forecast in June on China’s e-commerce sector, said Chinese “consumers will spend US$2.09 trillion on retail e-commerce this year, an increase of 16 per cent. That is 7.7 percentage points less than our pre-pandemic forecast, but still hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending compared with 2019”.

Analysts also expect retail sales – mainly goods purchases – to grow in the fourth quarter this year, boosted in particular by Singles’ Day.

We expect the momentum of China’s fourth-quarter retail sales recovery to see growth in the mid- to high single digits, narrowing the full-year sales drop to the low single digits

Fitch Ratings

The annual event is seen as an important barometer for China’s economic health. Last

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Luxury brands jump on China’s shopping event

Cartier jewellery
Cartier jewellery

Luxury brands have embraced China’s largest annual shopping spree, helping “Singles Day” break records once again.

Firms including Balenciaga and Prada debuted on Singles Day, or Double 11, joining around 200 luxury brands – more than double last year’s figure.

Singles Day was created by Chinese online retail platform Alibaba.

This year, the annual sale racked up $74bn (£56bn), with the luxury brands helping Tmall, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, hit new highs.

The event was seen as a gauge of the health of the Chinese economy as it emerges first from the pandemic.

Despite the healthy sales figures, Alibaba and other Chinese internet giants were this week told they face new anti-trust regulations by the government, aimed at curbing their powers.

Shares of Alibaba, the largest of the country’s tech firms, plunged almost 10% in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Luxury takes lead

One of the big differences this year was the large number of luxury brands taking part. Many had been reluctant to join the discounted shopping festival for fear of damaging their reputation.

But this year, the brands launched Singles Day promotions for the first time as they struggle for sales in Western markets.

Upmarket jewellers Cartier hosted its first live-streaming show on Taobao Live, showcasing a $28.3m necklace to an audience of almost 800,000 people.

“Global brands are looking at any alternative way to improve their revenues,” said Andy Halliwell, a senior retail analyst at digital consultancy firm Publicis Sapient.

“Markets that have recovered more quickly, like China, are good opportunities for these brands to try and bolster their revenues.”

He said it was also a chance for high-end brands to sell off their spring-summer stocks which weren’t sold due to lockdowns.

French fashion brand Chloe, taking part in Singles Day for the first time, quickly sold out of its handbags.

Jumping on bandwagon

“China has become super important to international brands because it is the only market doing well,” added Pascal Martin, a partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants.

“This has prompted several brands that were still reluctant to go on third party platforms to finally jump on this bandwagon.

Model holding Chloe handbag
Model holding Chloe handbag

“Luxury brands have realised that they can join this big party without doing massive discounts, but instead building brand equity with wider audiences. This is what Dior did for the first time this year.”

Fear of death

The fear of death in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic may have been another factor influencing the sale of luxury goods, said Dr Shirley Li, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University School of Business.

“Studies have shown that when we are faced with the risk of death, we tend to follow our heart (intrinsic motivation) and just focus on acquiring what we really love or want,” she said.

“We stop worrying, just want to ‘live in the moment’ and shop more.”

But some non-luxury brands faced pressure to offer big discounts to help drive more traffic to the e-commerce platform.

“It is

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Crazy sale! China’s Singles’ Day bags record shopping revenues | China News

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said orders made during its Singles’ Day mega-shopping festival had exceeded $56bn by Wednesday morning, as consumers sought to cash in on a deluge of discounts.

This year’s shopping extravaganza comes a week after Alibaba lost almost $76bn of its market value following China’s suspension of the $37bn listing of Ant Group, the financial technology firm which Alibaba owns a third of.

It also takes place as China experiences an economic rebound after getting the spread of the novel coronavirus under control within its borders, following the virus’ emergence in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

Alibaba launched the annual online blitz early this year, with two primary discount periods taking place from November 1 through November 3 and again on November 11.

The company will calculate gross merchandise volume (GMV) over the full 11-day period, as opposed to the usual 24 hours.

Records tumble

As of 12:30am local time (16:30 GMT) on November 11, the campaign’s GMV had surpassed 372.3 billion Chinese yuan ($56.3bn) with the order rate hitting a record peak of 583,000 per second, Alibaba said.

Alibaba, Asia’s largest company, blew past last year’s record $38bn at the beginning of Singles’ Day.


Pop star Katy Perry, who has performed at the event before, made an appearance at the company’s gala late on Tuesday, albeit via a livestream, as travel restrictions on outside visitors remain in place in China.

Katy Perry made an online appearance at Singles’ Day to help keep shoppers clicking [File: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via Bloomberg]

Chinese consumers – who already buy about 30 percent of the nation’s retail purchases online – have become more reliant on e-commerce.

Homebound consumers turned grocery delivery into the industry’s hottest arena, anchoring an unprecedented surge in online activity during the nationwide lockdown. Domestic travel is accelerating, propping up Alibaba businesses such as Fliggy, while a raft of new smartphones launched during the quarter is expected to tap pent-up demand for electronics.

Alibaba has said it is introducing more than two million new products, double last year’s amount. Other companies such as Douyin – the Chinese version of Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd’s TikTok – Inc and Pinduoduo Inc are also holding their own Singles’ Day shopping events., which started its shopping promotions on November 1, said it recorded 200 billion yuan ($30.3bn) worth of sales by nine minutes after midnight on Wednesday, while electronics retailer Co Ltd – part-owned by Alibaba – said it made five billion yuan ($758m) in sales in the first 19 minutes of the day.

Only the best

Analysts expect this year to be a boon for luxury brands, as Chinese consumers accustomed to going overseas to buy high-end goods are now stuck at home due to coronavirus border closures.

Andy Halliwell, retail analyst at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient, in a client note said: “The lack of consumer tourism which has hit European and US stalwarts like Harrods, Galeries Lafayette and

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Alibaba’s ‘Singles Day’ Is Coming. What to Know About China’s Black Friday Event.

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The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. logo is displayed atop the company’s building in Beijing, China


China’s version of Black Friday kicks off on Wednesday, as retailers brace for consumers to spend billions over a 24-hour period in the holiday known as “Singles Day.”

Alibaba Group Holding

(ticker: BABA), the e-commerce giant founded by Jack Ma, started the Global Shopping Festival in 2009 with just 27 merchants and a goal of increasing online spending on a holiday created to celebrate single people.

This year’s shopping event includes more than 250,000 brands and plans to introduce 2 million new products, double the number last year, Alibaba said.

It may be the biggest shopping day of the year, but it hasn’t helped Alibaba’s stock in recent years. Last year, Alibaba shares fell 0.24% day-of and only recovered part of that the next day, rising 0.14%.

Over the last six Singles Day shopping events, shares have fallen an average of 1.6% that day or the day before and fell an average of 0.64% the day after, according to Barron’s data.

Alibaba shares fell 3.1% on Monday and are up 37% this year compared to a 9.9% gain in the S&P 500.

The online seller has been growing as the Chinese consumer rebounds from Covid-related shutdowns in that country.

This year small businesses were invited to show off their products over two days on Nov. 1 to 3 to get their names out before the main event.

The pandemic has changed consumer shopping preferences, Alibaba said in a note about its plans posted on its website last month. The small business early view program, called “double,” will expand opportunities for sellers and buyers, the company said.

Alibaba’s platforms include Tmall, a business-to-consumer site, and Taobao, where people sell to each other. This year’s event features discounts on some 14 million products and 250,000 brands on Tmall. There will also be 2,600 brands from outside China for the first time.

Special promotions will be offered in 100 cities through Alipay, which is Alibaba’s mobile payment app. This part of the event allows street stall merchants and local businesses to participate.

Write to Liz Moyer at [email protected]

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Will China’s Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza shine as country continues to recover from pandemic?

The Singles’ Day shopping spree will use content to encourage shoppers to spend more. Photo: Handout

The Singles’ Day shopping spree will use content to encourage shoppers to spend more. Photo: Handout

“Have you chopped off your hands yet?” is an old internet meme used by many young Chinese who worry they might spend too much money during online festivals like the annual Singles’ Day.

Before the November 11 Singles’ Day event became widely known – first as the biggest online shopping spree in China and later the world – it was just a day for people to celebrate being single in a society which traditionally favours couples.

China’s e-commerce platforms only began capitalising on the event after Alibaba Group Holding – owner of the South China Morning Post – branded it as an annual shopping festival in 2009.

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More than a decade later, Singles’ Day is no longer just a novel way to drive sales. It has evolved into a multibillion-dollar event closely watched as a bellwether for trends in Chinese consumer spending.

This year, with the coronavirus pandemic hurting many businesses and dragging down global economic growth, the stakes are much higher for the retailers. The spotlight will be on three trends: shoppertainment, gamification, and the role of value shoppers in driving sales.

What you need to know about China’s Singles’ Day online shopping festival


Content-driven social e-commerce has developed rapidly in China in recent years, with online platforms evolving from simple distribution of digital coupons to formats like video and live streaming to increase customer stickiness.

“Content is the key battlefield for platforms to create a better experience, with the goal of having a deeper shared wallet and a better relationship,” said Jonathan Cheng, head of Bain & Co’s Greater China Retail practice.

Amid an e-commerce boom driven by the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Singles’ Day is expected to attract over 800 million Chinese consumers. Live-streaming will take centre stage on the big e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and Tmall operated by Alibaba, as well on the country’s second largest platform which has teamed up with short video platform Kuaishou to present a 200-hour, uninterrupted live streaming show from November 1 to 9.

a group of people on a stage: Decorations at Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Morning Post
Decorations at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Handout

Top influencers such as Li Jiaqi and Viya Huang will make appearances, while more than 400 company executives and 300 celebrities are planning individual live-streaming sessions on Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming platform for merchants, promoting products from cosmetics and electronics to cars and houses.

Social e-commerce site Pinduoduo, the third-largest Chinese e-commerce player, is partnering with Hunan TV, one of the country’s biggest broadcasters, to give away 1 billion yuan (US$151 million) in red packets as part of the station’s annual Singles’ Day Gala that kicks off Tuesday.

Singles’ Day: e-commerce merchants create buzz, ring up sales with richer content

“Content makes the shopping experience richer. It is something that’s been happening for

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Luxury, Beauty Brands and a Black Diamond Shine at China’s CIIE Fair

LONDON — The third edition of the China International Import Expo opened its doors Thursday and runs until Nov. 10 in Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center.

A major platform Chinese President Xi Jingpin initiated to bolster global trade, the event draws international luxury groups, beauty conglomerates and sportswear giants — alongside automobile makers, pharmaceutical companies and tech juggernauts — which all continue to participate with bigger and more glittering pavilions to showcase their brand heritages, new products, and efforts in sustainability and innovation.

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Even though the pandemic has largely subsided in China, all visitors are required to take a coronavirus nucleic acid test two days before entering the trade fair, and wearing a mask is mandatory inside the venue.

A highlight at this year’s CIIE is The Korloff Noir, an 88-carat black diamond, which is named after the Korloff-Sapojnikoff family, members of the Russian nobility, who originally owned the treasure. The stone is valued at $37 million and is now owned by French jeweler Korloff.

The consumer products exhibition area also draws lots of attention as it hosts major players like Kering, Compagnie Financiére Richemont, Inditex, Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., Tapestry Inc., Nike Inc., Decathlon, NBA, Asics, Skechers, L’Oréal, Unilever plc, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Shiseido Co. Ltd., Amorepacific Corp. and Kao Corp., covering an area of almost 970,000 square feet.

Richemont is a newcomer, while LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the star of last year’s edition, is noticeably absent this time.

The Swiss luxury group has brought 13 of its brands — including Cartier, Montblanc, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin and Chloé — to its 5,400-square-foot pavilion, and Piaget is launching the world’s thinnest watch — the Altiplano Ultimate Concept — which is only 2 millimeters thick for China.

“Over the years, China has been one of the most valued markets for Richemont,” said Jérôme Lambert, chief executive officer of Richemont, adding that China boasts broad market prospects as the country is in the fast lane toward greater consumption.

The Kering pavilion, designed by Ole Scheeren and hosting all the French group’s brands, highlights its strategic vision of “modern luxury,” as well as strengthens its commitment to the Chinese market.

Scheeren said he took an evolutionary approach to the pavilion’s design, which was initiated in 2019. The pavilion, which is “an imaginative statement on sustainability with style,” reuses 66 percent of the overall material weight. It consists of a series of rose-hued display cubes, prismatic vitrines, multimedia installations and signature works of fashion from the Kering brands.

Cai Jinqing, president of Kering Greater China, said, “In attending the CIIE this year, we appreciate and value this important opportunity to present Kering’s vision for the ongoing evolution of the luxury industry, and the role it can play in helping ensure a sustainable future. Moreover, we hope to expand our partnership with our business partners and stakeholders in China to further craft tomorrow’s luxury together.

“China is a key market for the

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China’s turbo-charged online fashion takes on Zara and H&M

By Sonya Dowsett and Sophie Yu

MADRID/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Shein may be the biggest shopping site you’ve never heard of.

The fast-fashion player is encroaching on the territory of more established rivals like Zara and H&M. It has become the largest, purely online, fashion company in the world measured by sales of self-branded products, according to Euromonitor.

Nanjing-based Shein, founded in 2008, is aiming squarely at the “Gen Z” social-media generation, using influencers on Instagram and TikTok, and discount codes, to attract younger shoppers in an increasingly crowded fashion market.

It offers low-cost styles, uploading hundreds of new designs to its app every week. The price for a dress is around half that of Zara, according to a recent Societe Generale price survey.

“You can save money, which is important when buying clothes as the fashions change so quickly,” said Rebeca Rondon, a 23-year-old student in Valencia, Spain, whose Instagram page compares dozens of styles from Shein and Zara head-to-head.

The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted online sales at retailers, giving online-only players like Shein, Britain’s Asos and Germany’s Zalando an edge over Inditex-owned Zara and H&M which have big city-centre stores.

In September, the Shein app saw 10.3 million downloads globally from across the App Store and Google Play, Sensor Tower data shows. In comparison, H&M’s mobile app hit about 2.5 million, and Zara saw 2 million. 

To date, Shein has reached 229.4 million downloads, versus H&M’s 123.5 million and Zara’s 90.6 million, the data shows.

In the week of Sep. 27-Oct. 3, Shein was the most downloaded shopping app globally on iPhones, according to analytics platform App Annie. It ranked in the top 10 in the United States, Brazil, Australia, Britain and Saudi Arabia.

Privately-owned Shein, which also sells on Amazon, does not publicly disclose sales or other financial figures. The company did not respond to emails or phone calls.

It has backing from investors including IDG Capital and Sequoia Capital China, according to PitchBook capital market data. The funds did not respond to interview requests.

Inditex and H&M declined to comment for this story.


Although Shein is gaining more followers, it has limited visibility compared with the likes of Zara and H&M. It has no domestic presence in China, where online shoppers go to Alibaba’s Taobao and to Pinduoduo for clothes at bargain prices.

Meanwhile, some consumers say the quality of items can be variable and delivery times erratic.

Unlike Zara and H&M, which have detailed background on the sourcing of their clothing and the working conditions of employees on their websites and annual reports, Shein gives no details about the manufacture of its products.

Inditex revolutionised the fashion industry in the 1990s by responding quickly to trends and speeding designs to stores using factories close to its headquarters in Spain.

Shein also works with hundreds of factories in close proximity to its Nanjing HQ, according to a China-based industry source with knowledge of the company’s business practices.

The Chinese company aims to

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