Black Friday spreads to China with push from Alibaba

Global Business

Screenshot shows Taobao is directing Chinese consumers to Macy’s American website for Black Friday sales. Taobao

China does not celebrate Thanksgiving with Turkey, but this year the most world’s most populous country will experience Black Friday with a big push from Internet giant Alibaba.

After signing several major U.S. department stores and retailers, Alibaba is making it easy for Chinese shoppers to buy from U.S. retailers using Alibaba’s payment service, Alipay.

Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and American Apparel, among others, are partnering with Alibaba to promote Black Friday sales. They will accept online payments in Chinese currency and deliver packages with China Smart Logistics Network, which is 48 percent owned by Alibaba.  China Smart Logistics Network works with 14 carrier companies to deliver packages across China, and delivered 50 billion packages in 2013.


Screenshot of Macy’s weibo with Black Friday sales instructions

As part of the Black Friday push, Alibaba is now working with cross border e-commerce services in the U.S., including Borderfree Inc., to launch more U.S. merchants on Alipay. Borderfree displays local pricing, shipping and payment options to foreign shoppers at checkout on U.S. e-commerce sites. The company is working with Alipay to enable U.S. merchants to accept Alipay, and Chinese shoppers to check out in Chinese Renminbi.

“With a quickly-evolving consumer market and a growing base of sophisticated shoppers, China is a key part of our international ecommerce strategy,” Kent Anderson, president of, said in a statement released on the cooperation between Alibaba and Borderfree. “We see this pilot from Borderfree and Alipay as a compelling way to overcome barriers that have made breaking into this marketing particularly challenging, and provide consumers with a straightforward, localized shopping experience.”


Screenshot of Alipay‘s coupon promotion.

Alibaba is also offering 60 million yuan ($9.8 million) in electronic coupons through December 1st for Black Friday shopping. The coupons can be used from November 28, also known as Black Friday, both online and in person at the stores. Shoppers can use the savings for purchases over 1,000 yuan ($163.41). Alipay will also give shoppers a red envelope that will earn them 20 yuan ($3.27) to spend when they share Black Friday promotions on Chinese social network Weibo or other social media.

Alibaba said that there would be no U.S. consumption tax to pay when shopping from China, but shoppers will pay for the customs duties and delivery fees. According to Alibaba, shoppers would receive items they buy around 10 days later purchase. Gift wrapping service and return polices are not available for overseas shopping.

Earlier in November, Alibaba topped $9.3 billion in sales on the Chinese shopping holiday known as Singles’ Day. That total is more than double the entire U.S. retail industry’s 2013 Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales combined. The record Singles’ Day sales were helped in part by the company’s strategy to promote the holiday to international shoppers.

Meanwhile, Amazon China also started their Black Friday special promotion to China, a move seen as escalating the competition with Alibaba. The western shopping carnival will kick off for the first time in China at 9 am on Friday. It will offer up to 70 percent off on about 35,000 products from 9 am to 4 pm on Friday, 6,000 of which will be exclusive, according to the Amazon China’s website. The campaign in China will last throughout Saturday, which will be Friday in the U.S., when some of the products will be sold at half price.

For more information about Alibaba, check out our special Alibaba IPO webpage.