After a launching a dozen country pavilions on its Tmall Global online marketplace last year, Alibaba Group is hosting the first virtual flagship store featuring products not from a foreign country but from a region: France’s fabled historical province of Provence.
The Provence flagship store, a collaboration between the Marseilles government and Tmall Global, features more than 100 regional specialties such as wine, olive oil and personal care items including lavender oil, one of Provence’s signature products. Eight brands are selling on the store, among them a Marseilles maker of natural soaps—La Corvette—and 165-year-old parfumeur L’eau de Cassis.
The store aims to tap Chinese consumers’ growing appetite for unique imports and boutique products, offering market access to smaller French businesses that are deterred from exporting to China in part due to the complexities and costs of conventional marketing and distribution, according to Alibaba Group.
Alibaba’s Tmall Global provides international merchants with a simpler and more cost-effective cross-border sales channel as well as logistics and marketing solutions. Provence merchants selling on the platform will be able to ship directly to consumers through bonded warehouses in Hangzhou and Tianjin, reducing import fees and ensuring delivery in 2-7 days.
In addition to the online store, the Marseilles government and Tmall Global plan to open a 500-square-meter “experience center” in Hangzhou, a physical store where consumers can sample Provence products and place online orders.
At the end of 2015, Tmall Global hosted more than 5,400 international brands from 53 countries and regions, among them U.S. department store operator Macy’s, Japanese beauty products giant Shiseido Group, U.K. supermarket chain Sainbury’s, U.S. infant care company Huggies, and Paris-based food-products multinational Danone.