Wal-Mart Stores Inc has taken full ownership of Chinese e-commerce firm, Yihaodian.com, by buying out the remaining 49 percent stake that it did not already own.
The investment is intended to help Wal-Mart target China’s fast-growing online market at a time when largely brick and mortar retailers are feeling the pinch of competition from online rivals and a slowing of the world’s second-largest economy.
Wal-Mart is ratcheting down its ambitions in China, after years of watching its growth stymied by the challenge of quickly opening large numbers of stores across the country.
Wal-Mart said in February that its fourth-quarter net sales in China fell 0.7% from a year earlier, and same-store sales dropped 2.3%. Despite being one of the earliest investors into the online space in China, the company has lagged behind its competitors in recent years. Wal-Mart was one of the first retailers to set up online in China; in 2012 it acquired a majority stake in e-commerce site Yihaodian. However, Yihaodian accounts for a mere 1.4% of online transactions, while Alibaba holds a 61.4% share, according to market-research firm iResearch.
In May, Wal-Mart will be rolling out an app in China that enables shoppers to order goods on their phones and either pick them up in a store or have them delivered by Wal-Mart’s own employees.