Alibaba Group’s China-only Wholesale Website is Going Abroad

Alibaba Group’s China wholesale website, 1688.com, is opening up to suppliers from other countries with the addition of 24 South Korean brands.

Little known outside of China, 1688.com is host to thousands of PRC wholesalers selling a wide range of merchandise and is a key part of the supply chain feeding retailers on Alibaba’s giant Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com shopping websites. The 1688.com platform has hosted Chinese suppliers exclusively since its debut in 1999. But in August, the B2B website accepted the first foreign suppliers to the platform—wholesalers from Taiwan—through a program called Direct From Overseas Markets.

1688.com’s transformation from a pure domestic marketplace into one that serves Chinese retailers with products from around the world is continuing with the debut of food and beverages from South Korea, 1688.com officials said today. With the support of South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the platform brought aboard 24 South Korean suppliers, among them well-known brands Woongjin Foods, brewer HITE-Jinro, and Daesang Corp., one of the country’s leading packaged-food producers.

Officials for 1688.com said they plan to work with the South Korean government to establish a Korean food mini-site and broaden the selection of Korean products, which are increasingly popular with Chinese consumers, to cosmetics, consumer electronics and other categories by the end of the year.

By including international suppliers, the website is trying to offer Chinese retailers, both online and offline, greater wholesale access to high-quality foreign products at lower prices because through 1688.com they are able to source merchandise directly from overseas manufacturers. “This helps sellers ensure a stable product supply and avoid the hassle of looking for a middleman on their own,” said Yang Chao, who oversees 1688.com’s food category, in a press release. “Also, the fact that the products come direct from an overseas supplier or a sole distributor within China can help ensure the quality of the products,” he said.

1688.com’s sister website, Alibaba.com, is an international B2B marketplace that primarily provides Chinese manufacturers and suppliers with a wholesale channel to overseas buyers.

Officials for 1688.com said they will continue to expand the Direct from Overseas Markets program, next by courting suppliers from Southeast Asian countries including Thailand.