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China's online sales surge to $176.1 billion in H1

2014-07-30 10:58 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Counterfeiting continues to cause concern

Consumers bought a total of 1.1 trillion yuan ($176.1 billion) worth of goods from China's online retailers in the first half of this year, a surge of 33.4 percent year-on-year, data from the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) showed Tuesday, even though sales of counterfeit goods continue to afflict some online platforms in China.

Online retail sales accounted for 8.4 percent of the country's overall retail sales in the first half, the MOFCOM wrote in a statement on its website.

MOFCOM data also showed that total e-commerce transactions in China, including business-to-business transactions, reached 5.66 trillion yuan, up 30.1 percent on a yearly basis.

Also on Tuesday, bank card association China UnionPay announced that the number of its Internet and mobile payment users have surpassed 150 million by July, according to a post on the company's website.

Lin Wenbin, an industry analyst at consultancy Analysys International, told the Global Times Tuesday that in the second quarter alone, online retail sales already accounted for 10.48 percent of China's overall retail sales.

The ratio is somewhere between 6 percent and 8 percent in some developed economies at present, such as the US, Lin noted.

Despite consumers' growing enthusiasm for online shopping, counterfeiting and other irregularities such as tax evasion remain pressing issues that hinder the development of the sector.

On Monday, leading e-commerce websites JD.com Inc and Jumei International Holding closed a third-party shop on their platforms after a news report alleged that the shop was selling fake luxury goods.

Lin said that major e-commerce websites have been introducing third-party shops on their platforms in a bid to bring product variety to their users, and during the process it is unavoidable that sometimes unqualified merchants get in.

"Most Chinese consumers have developed the habit of shopping online in a maturing market. Such news may affect the sales of a particular e-commerce site, but not the whole sector," Feng Lin, a senior analyst at China E-Commerce Research Center, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Feng noted that the sector will continue to grow at a fast pace as young people, who tend to shop online more frequently, are gaining more purchasing power.

And with domestic consumption is expected to play a more important role in driving China's economic growth, the online retail sector will also get a boost, experts noted.

The e-commerce market in China is dominated by several companies at present. "The e-commerce sector has entered into a new phase as major e-commerce companies are all seeking public offerings," the MOFCOM wrote in the Tuesday post.

JD.com made its debut on the Nasdaq in May, and its main rival Alibaba Group is also reported to get listed on the New York Stock Exchange as early as late August.

Though experts noted that it is unlikely that online shopping will replace brick-and-mortar shops in a short term, traditional companies have been actively tapping into the online market recently.

Real estate developer Dalian Wanda Group will allocate an initial investment of 5 billion yuan to develop its e-commerce business, and the company is now seeking partnership with China's major e-commerce firms, media reports said earlier this month.

But experts noted that it would be hard for new players to take a significant share in the online market and it is difficult to change the current landscape in the e-commerce sector.

"If the new players could focus on one specific market segment or one specific group of consumers, they might still have a chance," said Analysys International's Lin.

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