Chinese Auction Site Gets ‘Friendship’ of Retail Giant

Twinbays.com China has signed Beijing’s largest department store operator to be a new vendor on the Twinbays auction site, bringing the credibility of a major name retailer and a slice of its Internet sales receipts to the online service.

The Xidan Department Store Group, which operates the Friendship Store in Beijing, expects to top $1.2 billion (US$) in revenue this year. The company, which targets international travelers, did not say how much it is expecting from its new Internet venture.

Twinbays.com, operated by Twinbays International Inc., of Reston, Virginia, became the first online auction site to target China’s immense consumer population when it launched its service in December 1997. The Chinese government, however, has been wary of the expansion of electronic commerce to its country, and some observers have blamed the government for e-commerce’s slow development there.

Western-Style Sales

The deal gives Xidan access to Twinbays.com China to market its products to domestic Chinese consumers, while Twinbays.com will earn commissions on each item sold. Like nearly every online retailer in the western world, Twinbays.com China supports complete online payment, allowing shoppers to use either domestic Chinese debit and credit cards or international cards including VISA, MasterCard and American Express. According to Twinbays.com, the site is one of the few in China that provides such flexible payment options.

The Xidan deal follows agreements earlier this month with two large department stores in Shanghai, as well as a handful of government art agencies and China’s 10 largest auction houses. According to Twinbays.com, the company’s Chinese auction site has won the trust of Chinese consumers and the support of the Chinese government by creating such relationships with established retailers in China.

The nature of the Chinese government’s endorsement of online auction sites, however, is unclear. Twinbays competitor MeetChina.com, which launched in May, bills itself as “China’s only officially recognized online auction.” Twinbays.com, on the other hand, appears to argue that since the government-owned People’s Daily newspaper in China has reported on Twinbays.com’s auctions, the company’s efforts are essentially sanctioned by the government as well.

More on Twinbays.com

Twinbays.com, which bills itself as the “Silk Road of the 21st Century,” is focused upon increasing electronic commerce in the tightly regulated Chinese market. At the same time, the site acts as an export outlet for Chinese art and antiques. On its U.S. Web site, Twinbays.com promises to increase the flow of “China-made upscale and high quality merchandise” to the U.S. market as the holiday shopping season approaches.

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