BEIJING: The growth of e-commerce in China has been underlined by the moves of international retailers to expand into this sector and by the increasing preference of fashion consumers for shopping online.

Walmart, the US hypermarket, and Asos, the internet fashion retailer, are among those announcing new plans for China.

Walmart said it would open 110 new facilities, including stores and distribution centres over the next three years, with, reported China News, a greater focus on second, third and fourth tier cities. It will also shut some unprofitable stores.

The company is also looking to profit from its near-51% stake in Yihaodian, the online shopping platform which claims more than 20 million registered consumers.

CEO Michael Duke said that Walmart's e-commerce business grew about 30% in the first half of the year and that the company was aligned with China's strategy of promoting an emerging middle class and urbanization.

He also observed that around the world more customers were using technology, especially in China. "E-commerce is a great enabler, allowing Walmart to grow globally," he added, in remarks reported by the New York Times.

Fast-growing online fashion retailer Asos has also said its Chinese operation will launch soon. "We have a dedicated Chinese-language site initially offering about 2,000 locally relevant own-brand styles, an in-country multidisciplinary team, dedicated delivery solutions and payment methods, local language customer care and a domestic distribution partner," a statement revealed.
The trend towards online shopping, China Daily noted, was especially true for fashion and beauty shoppers. Many preferred to avoid the attentions of sales staff in malls and found that foreign retail sites offered relatively better value and easy returns.

Other overseas retailers following this route include The Outnet, run by the same group behind the online fashion retailers Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter. The internet, said Stephanie Phair, The Outnet's global managing director, meant that "Women living in second- or third-tier cities can access great fashion just like those living in Shanghai or Beijing."

The Yoox Group, an Italian fashion e-tailer, has developed its service level beyond anything typically seen in China, with a "butler" option where customers can try on purchases while a courier waits up to half an hour to see if the person wishes to return any items.

Data sourced from China News, Financial Times, New York Times, China Daily; additional content by Warc staff