In July of 2013, Forbes warned that China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba is a huge threat to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and all other major U.S. retailers. After all, the business publication pointed out, Alibaba's portals handled gross sales of $170 billion in 2012 – more than Amazon and eBay's gross sales combined. It looks like Forbes was foreshadowing what was to come.
The Alibaba Group said it is actively recruiting retailers for its U.S.-based e-commerce site, 11 Main, which launched this week. Similar to Amazon, 11 Main will feature a variety of product categories including baby items, fashion and art.
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.
"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.
However, it is not just any retailer that can become an 11 Main merchant. The e-commerce marketplace is looking for merchants with experience selling online and those with a track record of good customer service, according to a note on its Web site.
While 11 Main will take time to build mass, it will likely be successful, industry observers say. "It looks like they are focusing on select test verticals in the market entry. 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.
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