Chinese buyers can now shop directly online from the biggest department stores in the U.S., as Alipay’s ‘foreign direct purchase’ ePass service goes live for the holiday season. Participating stores including Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Sak’s Fifth Avenue will join Ann Taylor and Aeropostale as the first major overseas brands to sign on with Alipay. The stores will now be open to any shopper who has an account with Chinese marketplace giant Taobao.

Shopping for overseas products has been historically difficult for Chinese consumers, who face barriers using credit cards online. In contrast, Alipay has had massive adoption rates, with over 800 million accounts accounting for almost 80% of online transactions within China.

“We hope to reconstruct the experience of shopping abroad,“ said Peng Yijie, Vice President of Ant Financial’s international business division. Peng believes that the move to connect directly with U.S. department stores will help fix a ‘disjointed’ system that often requires Chinese consumers to use a middleman agency when buying from abroad.

Despite the swelling number of middle class consumers in China, foreign retailers have previously found it difficult to enter the market. Earlier this year, Neiman Marcus revealed that it had sold its 44% stake in Chinese e-retailer Glamour Sales, which it had acquired just two years earlier in 2012 with the view to launching their e-commerce presence in China.

The new direct additions to Alipay follow a rise in overseas purchasing options for Chinese consumers. This October, Amazon announced the launch of its China direct shipping service, while Alibaba’s own Taobao and Tmall continue to increase their overseas stock.

With Alibaba recording US$9.3 billion (about RMB57.6 billion) of sales during the 24-hour ‘singles day’ event this month, the benefits of connecting with Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly apparent for foreign retailers.

Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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