Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In January, Amazon attracted intense attention when it opened Go, its cashless convenience store in Seattle. And it's poised to open six more of them on the U.S. west coast, according to Recode. But that still leaves the e-commerce giant far behind its Chinese rivals, which are already staking out new ground in retail.

Why it matters: The future of retail in the world's leading economies is increasingly expected to be not online shopping, but a melding of e-commerce and physical stores. And Chinese Big Tech appears to be in the vanguard of how to pull this off. The research firm Sanford Bernstein calls it the "digitization of retail."

What's happening: Go arrived about five months after the appearance of such stores in China, where tens of thousands of shoppers have already tried them out. They are part of a dizzying transformation in which Chinese internet giants led by Alibaba are becoming online-offline behemoths, investing in or acquiring some 30 physical retailers in the nation since the fall, according to Sanford Bernstein.

"It would be like Amazon buying a stake in every major offline retailer in the U.S.," Bernstein's Bhavtosh Vajpayee tells Axios.

"Whoever gets their online and offline stories right will become a gravitational black hole sucking up everybody else."
Vajpayee
  • Walmart and Amazon are the leading contenders to play this role in the U.S.
  • In Europe, it's not clear who has the inside track.

Driving the news: Like Americans, a majority of Chinese people shop in physical stores. About 850 million Chinese, or 60% of the population, shop in stores, according to a note to clients last month by Wells Fargo. E-commerce comprises just 16% of total Chinese retail sales.

Hence, Alibaba reckons it will grow the fastest and largest by merging with those stores. That's why it has spent $6.7b on brick and mortar since the end of 2016.

  • It has focused on groceries, with its Hema fresh food stores, Sun Art, Sanjiang, Lianhua and the online grocery Yiguo.com.
  • Alibaba has also invested in Easyhome, a home improvement chain, and InTime, a department store operator.
  • This month, Alibaba bought out the remaining shares of Ele.me, a food delivery company.

JD.com has invested $1.5 billion in physical groceries, including 7FRESH, Better Life and Yonghui. It is a partner with Walmart in both China and the U.S. In China, they operate more than 400 stores.

Go deeper: Alibaba and Tencent vie to dominate Chinese supermarkets

Go deeper

5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Patrick Gaspard to leave George Soros' Open Society Foundations

Patrick Gaspard speaks onstage at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Photo: Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images

Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama, is stepping down as president of George Soros' Open Society Foundations, fueling speculation that he'll join the Biden administration, potentially as Labor secretary.

What to know: Before his stint as ambassador, Gaspard was Obama's political director in the White House, drawing upon his experience in the labor movement to advance Obama's legislative agenda on health care and financial services reform.

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office.
  2. Health: Coronavirus death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased COVID-19 testing can reduce transmission — Hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Vaccine: What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do — Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to take vaccine in public —WSJ: Pfizer expects to ship half as many COVID vaccines as planned in 2020.