German manufacturer Leica Camera AG is the latest in a series of high-end brands to step up its online sales in China.
Leica announced last week it had opened a store on Tmall.com, the online marketplace Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. operates that caters to larger brands. Tmall charges listing fees and gives brand owners their own storefronts, setting it apart from Alibaba’s larger and more wide-open Taobao shopping site that charges no listing fees and offers products from millions of mostly smaller Chinese companies and individuals.
The Leica Tmall store offers about 50 products, including some not available elsewhere in China, such as the T series line of cameras that are priced around $3,300. Leica also plans to introduce special-edition products for Tmall’s consumers, according to a statement from Siegmund Dukek, general manager of Leica China.
Leica says it will manage the Tmall store itself. Leica’s cameras also are available on JD.com, Alibaba’s biggest competitor in China, but JD.com oversees that Leica storefront. JD.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 China 500, which ranks retailers by their online sales in China. Although Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall marketplaces account for a majority of online retail purchases in China, Alibaba is not ranked because it does not own any of the merchandise sold on its sites.
Prestige brands like Leica are catering to the growing number of middle-class Chinese consumers who covet foreign goods. There are now 523 million Chinese consumers with middle-class incomes, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
Many other international consumer electronics brands sell on Tmall.com, catering to Alibaba’s 400 million online customers in China. Those brands include Apple, Dell, Philips and Sony.
JD.com Inc., is also working with a growing number of overseas brands. Japanese houseware brands Tiger, Pearl Life and Nishikawa Sangyo began selling through their own brand stores on JD.com last month, joining such other Japanese brands as Panasonic and Zojirushi, according to JD.com.
JD.com says it has about 170 million active users and operates seven fulfillment centers and 209 warehouses in China.
Fashion brands are also entering China via specialty e-commerce sites. Two U.K. fashion brands, Three Floor and Aspinal of London, recently started to sell in China through Xiu.com, a site that features designer apparel from such international names as Salvatore Ferragamo and Hugo Boss.
This story originally appeared in Internet Retailer.