IKEA has started selling its products on Alibaba’s Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall, marking the first time the furniture retailer has sold through a third party.

The move comes as China battles a coronavirus outbreak that prompted IKEA to shut all its 30 stores temporarily at the end of January, though the company said the outbreak had not influenced the timing of the launch.

Initially a six-month test – across the east coast provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui, and the city of Shanghai – the effort is aimed at making the brand more accessible to Chinese shoppers. Expanding its reach in a country where shoppers than elsewhere favour multi-brand online platforms. IKEA said it saw its virtual store on Tmall as a complement to its own stores, online store and shoppable app.

“We see this as a good opportunity to become accessible for many more in China, especially in light of what the Chinese digital environment looks like,” Tolga Oncu, head of retail at Ingka, which owns most IKEA stores worldwide, told Reuters.

“We are testing this to see ‘how does this impact our brand, how does this impact our infrastructure, our own stores and e-commerce, do we reach new segments ... and of course also what will the result look like’,” he added.

The store on Tmall will offer around 3,800 of IKEA’s around 9,500 products as well as services available in its own sales channels, such as delivery and assembly. The retailer currently has 30 big-box stores plus three other outlets in China.

As part of efforts to widen its global reach, the brand has been experimenting with new formats in recent years across various markets. These included the opening of smaller shops, planning studios, and mobile apps. The store also launched e-commerce services in more than 50 markets including Singapore, but there are no plans currently to sell through third parties in other markets.

Sourced from Reuters, ZDNet