The recent Cyber Monday sale has come and gone, and U.S. consumers once again gave online retailers a much-needed injection of revenue to begin the holiday season. Despite the estimated $2 billion in sales that were rung up across the nation on the first Monday following Thanksgiving, it paled in comparison to a one-day sale halfway across the world a few weeks earlier.
In fact, not only did China's own Cyber Monday on November 11th generate nearly triple the amount that U.S. retailers pulled in, all of it was spent at a single online marketplace: Alibaba. Between its two main platforms, Tmall and Taobao, the Alibaba Group pulled in a record US$5.7 billion in a 24-hour span -- roughly the same amount as Foot Locker's (FL) entire market capitalization.
In a word, Alibaba is China's answer to Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY), but it is bigger than the both of them combined. With the US$170 billion in annual revenue last year, The Economist predicts that the online giant can hit the $1 trillion-mark within five years.
Propelling the blistering growth at Alibaba and other emerging Chinese-based e-retailers are its customers. Specifically, China is the hotbed for savvy online shoppers. In 2012, there were nearly 220 million registered online buyers -- 70 million more than there are in America, according to market research firm, eMarketer. Let's not forget the tens of millions of Chinese living around the world who are also avid online users of shopping sites from the motherland. If you were to add up the existing markets of Britain, US, Japan, Germany and France, the whole of China's e-commerce market is expected to surpass the entire group by 2020, says the Economist.
The investment opportunity here is unmistakable.
Though Alibaba itself is privately held (for the time-being), a number of companies are also vying for a piece of the ever-growing market.
Top Chinese Retail Stocks To Buy:
Rumors of a potential Alibaba IPO have been swirling for a few years, but until a firm decision has been made as to when to take the company public, investors looking for exposure in this market will want to take a close look at these two up-and-comers.
Vipshop Holdings (VIPS) is a marketplace that has rights to sell hundreds of licensed brands to consumers at discounted prices, including Adidas and North Face. Vipshop specializes in offering daily and weekly flash sales of specific products, product categories, and brand names, which keeps its customers coming back on a regular basis.
Their flash sale model is not unlike that of Groupon (GRPN), except Vipshop focuses more on apparel and lifestyle products as opposed to Groupon's emphasis on services and entertainment such as restaurants or spas. Since going public in March 2012, VIPS' revenues and stock have been flying high. Its shares continue to set new highs nearly every month, and has jumped 400% year to date.
2013 is proving to be a strong year of growth as the company finally turned a profit beginning in Q1 after four years of being in the red. In Q3, Vipshop reported earnings per share of $0.22. In comparison, Amazon posted a -$0.09 EPS in Q3, while eBay achieved $0.53 EPS in the same quarter.
Another rising star in the Chinese e-marketplace is Dangdang (DANG). Roughly a third the size of Vipshop in terms of market cap, DANG is similar to Amazon's original incarnation as a primary seller of books. It currently has over 900,000 titles in its catalog, but it's also been recently expanding into other media and lifestyle products to give its customers a more complete shopping experience. The Company went public in November 2010.
Since then, its share price has dropped significantly, but the recent surge in online shopping over the past year has helped to breathe some life back into the stock. They've incurred a good sized chunk of debt in the last two years, but Dangdang has been diligently servicing it. As of the end of Q2 2013, its net loss has whittled down to about half of what it was at the end of last year.
In Q1 2013, the company reported that it added 2.4 million new users, which translated into a 2.24% increase in revenue. Right now, they have a customer base of just under 10 million, so revenue growth for the next few years should climb as their membership grows. It's worth keeping in mind that Dangdang has yet to turn a profit, posting a net loss of $10.4 million in Q2 2013. That said, the company is investing in some major marketing initiatives as of late, which could help it achieve profitability sooner rather than later.