Alibaba.com pairs with Office Depot in 1st major US tie-up

LOS ANGELES • Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s business-to-business (B2B) trading platform has forged its first US partnership with a large company as it teams up with Office Depot Inc.

Alibaba.com will create a new online destination to access the business supplies distributor’s network and build out its offering to small businesses in the US.

The partnership gives the Chinese online retailer access to 10 million business customers and 1,800 sales agents, according to a statement.

The new partnership will allow the small businesses to link with Alibaba.com’s global network of over 150,000 suppliers, offering next-day delivery.

“It connects businesses together for products and services,” Gerry Smith, CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based Office Depot, said in an interview.

“We are really bringing the world capabilities back to the US.”

The collaboration will give US entrepreneurs and small business owners access to a single online destination through which they can access one of the world’s largest catalogues of goods and services.

Another target is to improve cross-border distribution and fulfilment for US small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and eventually help them sell in the US and around the world through Alibaba.com.

“We have a common mission to be a catalyst for growth for small businesses,” John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group, said in an interview.

“If you are a bicycle manufacturer, you buy office supplies from Office Depot.

“Now, Office Depot can introduce you to Alibaba.com, where you can get access to the manufacturers of bicycle parts that you need.”

Smith estimates the market opportunity is six times the size of the market for sales to just consumers.

“When we talk to our SME customers today, their two biggest challenges are cash and time,” said Smith.

“They want one-stop shopping. They can come to one person to do all their shopping needs.

“They save time and they save money. We’re providing this with this collaboration.” — Bloomberg