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Alibaba to open its first bricks-and-mortar mall next year

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is rumoured to be building its first offline shopping centre called More Mall in Hangzhou.

The mall is being built on a 40,000 sq m plot of land and is scheduled to open next April.

Construction crews are believed to be finishing the building's interior.

So far, the e-commerce giant has been a huge name in retail, but it has yet to build a physical store where consumers can check out its products and buy them right then and there.

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Alibaba’s business is based on the very successful model of browsing an online shop and filling your digital cart with items, which are then shipped to you.

The five-storey centre will highlight brands that sell on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, Taobao, as well as conventional retail brands.

It will also house Alibaba’s grocery store, Hema, in what will be considered the supermarket’s flagship location. 

The shopping experience will include virtual fitting rooms and technology-laden makeup testing mirrors among other conveniences.

Alibaba’s initiative to open the shopping centre is in conjunction with founder Jack Ma's "new retail" era initiative announced in February.

In essence, it is a strategy to blend online, offline, logistics and data units across a single value chain, Ma said in February.

The effort is intended to remake traditional retail through advancements in unmanned stores with the hopes of bringing the technology to one million bricks-and-mortar locations. 

While the mall represents the first physical Alibaba outlet, it is not the company’s first foray into bricks-and-mortar.

The Chinese e-commerce giant has already partnered with physical InTime department stores, electronics retailer Suning and offline giant Bailian in China, and for the past two years has developed a series of Hema grocery stores.

Moving to a bricks-and-mortar presence is something of a trend for online retailers at the moment, with Amazon establishing physical outlets through its acquisition of Whole Foods.

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