July 3, 2014, 12:13 PM

How the Fourth of July could boost Chinese e-commerce

Tmall, one of the big marketplaces operated by the Chinese e-commerce giant, kicks off “American Week” today in honor of the U.S. national holiday. Sixty U.S. brands are participating in the promotion, which runs through Wednesday.

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Online shoppers in China could get a better taste of U.S. food and adult beverages this Independence Day thanks to a new promotion from Tmall.com, an online marketplace operated by Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., China’s dominant e-commerce companyTmall.com’s “American Week” kicks off today and runs through Wednesday. The event “is aimed at educating Chinese consumers about American culture, spirits and lifestyle,” says an Alibaba spokeswoman. Promoted products  include cherries from the Pacific Northwest, 10 major U.S. ice cream products,  Jack Daniel’s whiskey,Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, and Starbucks coffee. “The American Week is part of Tmall’s ‘Eat around the World’ program where the team works to bring well-known products from different countries to Chinese consumers,” she says.

Some 60 brands are taking part in the Tmall.com promotion.

The Independence Day promotion stems from the success of a Tmall.com program that enables Chinese consumers in such big Chinese cities as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to put in online orders for U.S.-produced cherries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s office in Shanghai collaborated with the Northwest Cherries Association and Tmall on the cherries promotion. Last year, Tmall delivered cherries to 42 Chinese cities and sold 180 metric tons of the fruit, the spokeswoman says.

This year’s online cherry sales program could be even larger, with consumers in more than 100 cities able to purchase the fruit, says Keith Hu, the director of the Northwest Cherry Association. More than 2,500 cherry growers are taking part. They come from Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming—with 90% of the cherries originating in Washington.

Alibaba operates two big online marketplaces in China, Taobao and Tmall, which account for about 80% of online purchases by Chinese consumers. The company has announced plans to go public on the New York Stock Exchange this year.

Back in the United States, where some consumers are readying barbecues and bottle rockets and others are thinking of ways to sneak out of work early, the holiday weekend could prove more active and perhaps more lucrative for e-retailers than for bricks-and-mortar retailers (some of which will close on Friday). A survey from Snapette, the fashion shopping unit of comparison shopping site and app operator PriceGrabber, finds that 43% of consumers who plan to buy new items for theFourth of July will head online. That compares with 28% who will head to major department stores, 16% to discount stores, 10% to boutiques and 3% to party and costume stores. Snapette surveyed 2,651 U.S. online shoppers between June 18 and July 1.

Those consumers’ spending plans break down as follows:

• $25 or less, 15%

• $25 to $50, 23%

• $50 to $75, 22%

• $75 to $100, 20%

• More than $100, 14%

• More than $200, 6%

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