The largest online retailer in China plans to open 1 million stores where consumers can place online orders from their mobile phones.

Inspired by the success of Singles’ Day, China’s largest online shopping festival,  online retailers in China and elsewhere increasingly are creating their own made-up shopping holidays.

Even Amazon.com Inc., the No. 1 online retailer in the world, has followed suit, creating its Prime Day that it held in 2015 and 2016, and is expected to repeat this year sometime the week of July 10.

Like Amazon, which launched Prime in 2015 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, JD.com, No.1 of Internet retailer China 500, has created a sales event timed to the anniversary of its launch on June 18, 1998. JD offers deals for the first 18 days of June and this year generated 119.9 billion yuan ($17.6 billion) in revenue from the shopping extravaganza.

JD’s total is just short of the $17.8 billion worth of products purchased on last year’s Singles’ Day, on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s online marketplaces, mainly Taobao and Tmall. However, that Alibaba sale, which takes place every Nov. 11 (the 11/11 date designation gave rise to the name Singles’ Day and the concept of celebrating the unmarried) lasts only 24 hours, not 18 days.

JD didn’t break out sales number for the June 18 anniversary sales in past years. However, the retailer says the number of shoppers who placed orders on June 18 this year was double the number from last year, and its sales in the first hour of June 18 grew 250% over the same day a year ago.

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Best-selling categories were consumer electronics such as smartphones and household appliances, including air conditioners, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines, according to JD. Fresh food sales increased nearly 400%.

One key for JD’s growth is reaching consumers in smaller and midsized Chinese cities through a new channel. The retailer has opened 50,000 convenience stores where consumers can scan the QR codes of products with their smartphones to place online orders. JD plans to open 1 million such stores across the country in the next several years, says chief operating officer Richard Liu, JD says French food brand Danone is selling new products through these JD stores about 10 times faster than through traditional retail channels.

JD.com also sells overseas products through its cross-border e-commerce section, JD Worldwide, taking advantage of relaxed customs rules for individual consumers buying items from foreign e-retailers.

The retailer says best-selling overseas brands on JD.com during the June 18 sale included Japanese diaper brand Merries, French milk brand Aptamil and German water-filter brand Brita. International retailers also can operate their own storefronts on JD Worldwide. In terms of sales, top stores include Japanese e-retailer Rakuten Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, which owns about a 10% stake in JD.com.

June 18 has become another big online shopping festival in China, and not just for its inventor, JD. Alibaba, the dominant e-commerce company in China, says apparel sales on its Tmall marketplace reached 1 billion yuan on June 18, and grocery sales were 13 times higher than on the same data a year ago. Suning Appliance Co. Ltd., No. 2 in the China 500, says its sales, both online and offline, grew 209% on June 18 versus the same day last year.

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While Alibaba accounted for 73% of China’s online sales of $749 billion in 2016, by Internet Retailer’s estimate, it is not ranked in the China 500 because it is a platform where other retailers sell and does not sell any merchandise on its own behalf. Like JD.com, Alibaba’s Tmall Global and Amazon China, No. 4 in the China 500, are steadily increasing their selections of overseas goods that Chinese shoppers can buy under the government’s cross-border rules that generally reduce customs duties on items purchased online for personal use.

 

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