Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group officially launched its 11 Main U.S. retail site this week, threatening eBay, Amazon, Etsy and other online sellers.
11 Main, inspired by America's "Main Street" shopping experience, retails products from smaller suppliers, giving it the feel of a collection of small boutiques rather than an online warehouse such as Amazon. Its selection spans a wide variety of categories, including home, fashion, baby, art, jewelry and crafts.
While the site may have a smaller feel, it will definitely become a big competitor of established U.S. online retailers. Alibaba is the biggest online retailer in China, and is prepping to raise a jaw-dropping $15 billion in a U.S.-based IPO — the most since Facebook's IPO in 2012.
"We're focused on building a compelling platform and are extremely pleased with the reception from our merchant partners thus far," an 11 Main spokeswoman said after the site was announced last year.
While 11 Main will take time to build mass, it will likely be successful, industry observers say. "From our experience, sellers welcome alternatives to the mainstay marketplace players, so Alibaba can be in a solid position to capture some of this demand," Eric Best, chairman and CEO of Mercent, a company that helps merchants list their products and sell on marketplaces, told Internet Retailer.
However, Alibaba's stance is that 11 Main is different from mainstream e-tailers and brick-and-mortar mass merchants, because the site plans to sell hard-to-find, unique goods that shoppers can't typically find at more generic outlets. And that will likely be a boon for antique dealers, art dealers and those who sell similar rare products.
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