Sun Art Retail Group Ltd., a Chinese joint venture of French supermarket chain Groupe Auchan SA and retail and financial services conglomerate Ruentex Group of Taiwan, has acquired a 54.5% stake in FieldsChina.com, an online grocery store.
“Our ambition is to develop synergies between FieldsChina.com and Sun Art Retail Group in several areas, including purchasing and IT,” says Bruno Mercier, CEO of Sun Art and the new chairman of FieldsChina.com. “FieldsChina.com’s expertise in e-commerce also enables our group to step up its efforts in e-commerce.”
Sun Art is one of the largest grocery chains in China by sales, with 2014 sales of 91.86 billion yuan ($14.8 billion), up 6% from a year earlier. Auchan owns about 41% of Sun Art.
Sun Art operates 372 supermarkets in China under the name of Auchan or RT-Mart and plans to open 162 stores in the next three years, the company says.
Founded in 2009 in response to scandals about food safety in China, FieldsChina.com sells imported food products in large cities along China’s east coast, including Shanghai and Hangzhou. Most buyers are foreigners living in China or Chinese consumers seeking premium food.
Sun Art has been speeding up its investment in e-commerce recently. The company launched e-commerce site Feiniu.com in January 2014 to sell products to Chinese online consumers.
After one year of operation, Sun Art says the daily order number at Feiniu.com has increased nine times, and the retail group plans to generate 1.2 billion yuan ($193.3 million) sales on Feiniu.com this year. Sun Art says its stores are good channels to promote its online business and plans to soon allow consumers to order on Feiniu.com and pick up in supermarkets owned by Sun Art.
Groupe Auchan, whose French companies sell online as well as through supermarkets, is No. 16 in the Internet Retailer Europe 500, which ranks retailers by their online sales in Europe.