Alibaba's Jack Ma on the floor of the NYSE. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Alibaba, which seemed contained to China for the first two decades of its existence, is steadily buddying up with U.S. companies and making inroads into the American market.

Driving the news: In just the past 12 months, Alibaba has teamed up with Kroger and Tiffany & Co, among other American companies, and has brought its payment system, Alipay, to thousands of U.S. stores. The latest partnership is with Office Depot — and the millions of small businesses which buy their office supplies there.

The big picture: It's increasingly difficult for small U.S. retailers to go up against giants like Amazon and Walmart, which have the cheapest prices and the fastest delivery options. Amazon's competitors, Alibaba among them, have happily turned this into a business opportunity, selling logistics and manufacturing services to the smaller companies that want to battle the behemoth.

  • Through the new deal, the 10 million small businesses that buy supplies at Office Depot will be able to tap Alibaba to set them up with Asian factories and call on Office Depot to help them with deliveries — all to cut their costs. They'll also be able to sell on Alibaba's site, which has more than 600 million active users.

Office Depot, like many brick and mortar companies in the age of Amazon, is struggling. Its stock price has fallen from around $9.50 in March 2015 to $3.50 today and its sales have shrunk from $15.5 billion in 2007 to $11 billion last year. The partnership with Alibaba is a play to stay relevant with a service offering for its customers as its traditional retailing business falters.

For Alibaba, a partnership with an old American brand is helpful at a time when U.S. tensions with China keep escalating. "We recognize that the brand that Office Depot has matters," John Caplan, head of Alibaba.com's U.S. arm tells Axios.

Go deeper

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 20,001,019 — Total deaths: 733,897 — Total recoveries — 12,209,074Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,085,821 — Total deaths: 163,370 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Politics: Trump claims he would have not called for Obama to resign over 160,000 virus deathsHouse will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  5. Public health: A dual coronavirus and flu threat is set to deliver a winter from hellAt least 48 local public health leaders have quit or been fired during pandemic.
  6. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  7. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."
49 mins ago - World

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election

An arrest today in Minsk. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty

Protesters and security forces are clashing across Belarus tonight, with at least one person dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.

Why it matters: Sunday’s rigged presidential elections have yielded political uncertainty unlike any seen in Aleksander Lukashenko’s 26-year tenure. After claiming an implausible 80% of the vote, Lukashenko is using every tool in the authoritarian arsenal to maintain his grip on power.

Updated 54 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 20 million worldwide on Monday evening, Johns Hopkins data shows.

The big picture: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference as the world approached the milestone that 750,000 deaths were set to be recorded this week. "Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters," he said. "But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope and... it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."