May 13, 2011, 12:26 PM

Wal-Mart invests in Chinese e-retailer

Wal-Mart takes a minority stake in online retailer Yihaodian.

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said today it has bought a minority stake in Yihaodian, a China-based online retailer that launched in July 2008 and now carries more than 75,000 products. Wal-Mart, No. 6 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, did not say how much it invested in the company.

Wal-Mart says that Yihaodian is especially strong in online sales of groceries, baby products, consumer electronics and apparel. The Chinese company employs 2,000 workers and offers next-day delivery of what the U.S. retailer calls essential daily items.

“Online sales in China are growing rapidly and are projected to match U.S. online sales in the next few years,” says Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores and CEO of Walmart global e-commerce and global sourcing.  “By investing in Yihaodian, we're continuing to establish a presence in this important e-commerce market, and are moving forward on fulfilling our aspiration of being the leading global multichannel retailer."

In a report released late last year, Forrester Research Inc. predicted that online retail sales in China will more than triple to $159.4 billion in 2015 from $48.8 billion in 2010, the fastest e-commerce growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region. The report also says that China is overtaking Japan as the largest Asia-Pacific e-commerce market. The Chinese e-commerce figures include consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer transactions.

“Wal-Mart brings its global vision into our business,” says Gang Yu, co-founder and chairman of Yihaodian. “In addition, its supply chain excellence will help us gain a competitive edge in the e-commerce industry in China."  

Wal-Mart earlier this year announced that it had appointed Cindy Davis, a former e-commerce executive for the retailer, as executive vice president of global consumer insights. The team’s mission is to help Wal-Mart and its Sam’s Club wholesale division analyze broad consumer trends and find insights into the needs of consumers located around the world.

Two analysts from Forrester will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition next month in San Diego. James McQuivey, vice president and principal analyst, will speak in a session entitled "The Convergence: How the coming together of the Internet and TV will change e-retailers' business." Mike Gualtieri, a senior analyst, will speak in a sesson entitled "Do your web pages need a new fitness regimen?"

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