Alibaba Challenges Amazon With Invitation-Only Site

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, is expanding its U.S. operations through an invitation-only website for retailers called 11 Main.

The site is meant for specialty shops and boutiques offering products including clothes and jewelry that aren’t available at mass-market retailers, according to a statement on the website. The platform is opening soon, and the home page asks customers who want to shop early to request an invitation.

Alibaba has expanded its U.S. foothold with investments in ShopRunner, Quixey Inc. and Fanatics Inc. as it seeks to move beyond China and compete with sites such as Inc. Alibaba, which is heading toward an initial public offering this year in New York, set up an investment team in the U.S. in October to work with entrepreneurs focused on Internet commerce and to help the company learn about local operations.

“The U.S. is still a huge market -- per capita spending is a lot higher than China,” said Mark Tanner, the founder of China Skinny, a Shanghai-based research and marketing agency. “The acquisitions of local companies could be part of their plan to learn.”

Alibaba last month filed for an IPO, and the company has been valued at $168 billion, according to analyst estimates. The Hangzhou-based company operates websites including Taobao Marketplace and, and generated about $8 billion in revenue last year.

The new website’s name is a reference to the “Main Street” shopping experience, San Mateo, California-based 11 Main Inc. said in the statement.

“We’re constantly introducing new shop owners who represent the diversity of Main Street,” said Mike Effle, president and general manager of 11 Main.

Abbygail Reyes, a California-based spokeswoman for 11 Main, didn’t respond to an e-mail and text message seeking additional comment.

Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, said the company is happy to support 11 Main, and she declined to comment further.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at Frank Longid

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