Alibaba will open its first physical mall in China

A five-floor mall is being built near Alibaba’s headquarters in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, according to financial news site Caixin. The Alibaba shopping center reportedly will be called “More Mall” and is set to open in April.

The mall was built on a 40,000-square-meter plot of land. Currently, construction crews are finishing up work on the building’s interior.

This year marked the start of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s “new retail” era — a phrase the firm has seeded in its announcements. In essence it is a strategy to blend online, offline, logistics and data units across a single value chain, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said in February.

Under the initiative, Alibaba is moving fast into offline spaces to help remake traditional retailing, including launching unmanned convenience store and bringing big data technology to 1 million mom-and-pop stores. Now, it’s building its first shopping center.

Alibaba will bring its “new retail technologies” to More Mall, including high-tech makeup-testing mirrors and virtual fitting rooms, the report said, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter. Alibaba unveiled these technologies in June in what it called a “New Retail Interactive Store,” in a shopping mall in Hangzhou.

More Mall will exhibit a number of brands that are on sale on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao, as well as many conventional retail brands. It will also introduce Alibaba’s grocery store, dubbed Hema. The outlet will be the first flagship Hema store in Hangzhou.

E-commerce currently accounts for around 15% of total retail in China. Alibaba’s goal is not to make incremental progress on that 15%, but to digitally transform the remaining 85%, the company said in an online post.

With the new goal, Ma seems to have doubled down on a bet between him and Wang Jialing, founder of Dalian Wanda Group, China’s largest commercial property developer, which operates shopping malls and movie theater chains throughout China.

In 2012, Ma told Wang the e-commerce sector will eventually “basically” replace traditional retail, though it won’t be able to completely replace it. Under the terms of the bet, if online consumption has exceeded 50% of China’s total retail volume in 2022, Wang would pay Ma 100 million yuan ($15.3 million). If not, Ma would give Wang the same amount.

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