One day US baby bumped into a China baby and said “Hey, you know what, flash deal sites for mum & baby have been doing good in here. just raised USD 18.5 million in August. is pretty awesome, too. What about your side?” Well, China baby rolled eyes and muttered “I am not sure, have seen flash deal site for luxury, but maybe not the type you mentioned. Anyway we have big online malls for babies, and they have an imbedded section called “flash sale”, so who needs those vertical private sale sites?”

Above is just an imaginary conversation in my head. Of course they would never talk about e-commerce like this. Nevertheless recently I was bewildered by the fact that whereas Totsy and Zulily are catching up the thriving rush of flash sale devoted to mum & baby in US; China does not seem to have this exact type.

Perhaps it is just the culture difference of e-commerce between the two countries. Many B2C players in China aspire to hoard all the traffics for all product categories, to accomplish the ultimate ideal of “one stop shopping convenience”, instead of deploying the strategy of distributed & vertical destination sites.  

Every year about 16 million babies are born in China (compared with roughly 4 million new born babies in US). According to McKinsey, China’s online retailing size of Mum&Baby reached RMB 2 billion in 2010 and is forecasted to be RMB24 billion in 2016, with CAGR 52%. Needless to say, this sector of online market is a gold mine, however, with heaps of gold diggers around, acquiring lucrative profits is more or less about crossing the hurdles of cannibalism.

Maybe introduce few influential players in China now (not a complete list, by the way)

  • Model: pure vertical online mall

The most prestigious one goes to Redbaby. However its financial situation has been suffered from severe hemorrhage so far and is rumored to be acquired by Suning (Another China’s leading online and offline retailer, specialized in home appliances). Some taunted that Redbaby’s stupid move of transforming itself into a general online merchandiser, rather than maintaining the baby oriented approach, led to its current predicament.

  • Model: offline store + online mall + catalogue

Leyou, a company set up in 1999

Lijiababy, founded in 2003

  • Model: Horizontal B2C hosting baby product category

Dangdang’s baby care, a China’s Amazon like B2C

  • Model: Taobao C2C and expand later on

Duoduoyuan, often ranked as the number one among C2C baby stores on Taobao, started its business in 2004 and has sustained a steady growth because of its milk power sale. It is even more than happy to stay C2C, no further ambitions at this stage. Since China mums are concerned by the notorious issue of either toxic or fake baby formula, those offering safe milk powders often witness the staggering increase of its online sales.

Greenbox is a very well known apparel brand for kids (0 years old –teenage), its humble birth on Taobao C2C should be back to 2008; but managed to achieve round RMB 300 million sales now. It has already expanded into independent e-store and brick & motar shop.

Looks like it is very difficult, if not impossible, to carve out a market niche for sites like Totsy or Zulily in China.

By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager