Chinese eCommerce Giants Look to Make Noise in the U.S.

Chinese eCommerce Giants Look to Make Noise in the U.S.

Ecommerce firm Alibaba and fast-fashion giant Shein, two Chinese companies with grand ambitions in America, made moves recently to solidify their positions here. Alibaba is going after SMBs with a feature-rich logistics marketplace offering aimed at enticing them onto its seller platform. 

Shein, for its part, tapped supply chain software firm Flexport as its U.S. logistics partner. At least one observer looked askance at the first major announcement since a $260 million infusion from Shopify in January. Here are more items making headline news in eCommerce logistics and supply chain.

Alibaba’s New Logistics Marketplace Targets SMBs

Major Chinese eCommerce marketplace Alibaba has launched a logistics-as-a-service offering targeting SMBs in the U.S. This is another bid for Alibaba to compete with Amazon, which has a considerable head start in this area, as well as Chinese rival and Walmart.

But instead of offering the logistics service itself, Alibaba has created a marketplace of pre-vetted providers. Sellers can connect with service providers, and find solutions that are a fit for their needs. They can compare real-time quotes and book services, and search for capabilities such as customs clearance, local storage and warehouse space, shipment consolidation, and dropshipping. There is also a “Most Popular Services” section, and the ability to send inquiries and RFQs to prospective partners, such as freight forwarders, to get competitive quotes and tailor their logistics strategy.

Last fall, Amazon rolled out a number of interconnected services under the banner of Supply Chain by Amazon, handling everything from logistics and freight forwarding to last-mile delivery. Amazon also provides sellers with bulk storage, distribution, and replenishment across channels from the same optimized inventory pool, including retail stores.

Walmart recently partnered with to offer enhanced services to sellers. They have access to auto-syncing, auto pricing and auto listing, connecting inventory across channels, and can optimize pricing based on demand and drive traffic to product listings.

Shein Taps Flexport as U.S. Logistics Partner

In a move that will boost Chinese fast fashion giant Shein’s efforts to strengthen its foothold in the American market, supply chain platform Flexport has become its U.S. logistics partner

Through the partnership, merchants on Shein’s marketplace will be able to connect their storefront to Flexport’s seller portal. Services will include inventory synchronization, fulfillment and shipping, and automated order fulfillment. The partners promise “less manual work, more sales” and greater efficiency for participating merchants. 

This move comes amid increasing scrutiny of Shein in the U.S. and Europe over security concerns and allegations of merchants’ use of forced Chinese labor to produce discount apparel. Shein and Chinese rival Temu are both conducting a full-court press to increase their presence and sales in the lucrative American market. 

Ecommerce consultant Rick Watson wondered what the deal’s value would be for Flexport, and what new investor Shopify thought of it all. “What’s the plan even if this goes well?” Watson wondered in a LinkedIn post. “How does this help your volume to encourage U.S. brands to join Shein and then get disrupted by the site that they are now joining?”

3PLs Persevere Through Downturn, But Fraud A Concern

3PLs have done a good job of weathering a tough market the past couple of years, but fraud is a major concern, the head of an industry association told attendees at the Transportation Intermediaries Association’s 2024 Capital Ideas Conference, held April 10-13 in Phoenix. 

Fraud comes in the way of increasing cargo theft, carrier identity fraud, and the practice of “double brokering,” where a criminal posing as a carrier accepts a load, then illegally re-brokers it to a legitimate carrier, according to TIA president Anne Reinke. 

“Our goal is to change the lack of enforcement from our federal partners,” Reinke said. “We are not waiting for the government to act — we do not have that luxury — but we are doing all that we can to help our members raise the attention on this issue so it doesn’t metastasize to an even bigger, untreated problem.”

3,300 Workers Face Layoffs in Logistics Sector

Companies in several states have announced nearly 3,300 workers are being laid off in logistics roles, as they look to right-size operations in the face of lower demand and decreased volume.

According to FreightWaves, this includes 677 warehouse workers, truck drivers, and others at Universal Logistics in Michigan, servicing the auto parts industry; 235 workers laid off by Swissport Cargo Services at a cargo handling facility in Atlanta, after losing a contract to Amazon; 230 jobs cut by Kroger as it permanently closes delivery hubs in San Antonio, Austin, and Miami; 114 laid off at RXO Managed Transport in Warren, Mich. (a brokerage platform spun out of XPO Logistics in 2022); 51 let go from packaging solutions company Nosco Inc., in Texas; and 29 laid off from a trucking facility in Romeoville, Ill., operated by Ryder Integrated Logistics.

In addition to all this, Walmart announced it is laying off 2,000 workers at eCommerce facilities. This included 1,000 roles in a Fort Worth, Texas, warehouse, 600 at a Pennsylvania fulfillment center, 400 in Florida, and 200 in New Jersey, with more cuts coming in California.  

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employment in warehouse and storage fell from a high of 1.942 million in May 2022 to 1.757 million in March 2024. However, it’s still well ahead of the pre-pandemic level of 1.321 million in February 2020.

Amazon Warehouse Workers Seek to Unionize in Canada

The Amazon unionization effort, which has been active without success thus far at warehouses in New York and Alabama, among other locations, has shifted north of the border. At a facility in Laval, Québec, one of the country’s largest labor unions filed an application to represent 200 workers there. The Québec labor tribunal will now determine whether more than 50% of workers signed a union card, and if so, it could ratify the union. Both here and in Canada, Amazon has been accused by labor organizers and government agencies of union-busting efforts.

As Market Disruptions Persist, eCommerce Companies Need a Safe Haven

In the midst of a challenging environment, eCommerce companies seek stability. It’s critical to adapt strategically to maintain growth, manage risks, and secure your business in a volatile market. For many, this means turning to a reliable logistics partner in order to gain sustainability and competitive advantage.

ShipBots is an innovative 3PL with eCommerce fulfillment experience across industries that delivers results. Our main LA fulfillment center is in Gardena, Calif., just miles from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. We also have facilities in the Midwest and East Coast, enabling fast, cost-efficient pick/pack/ship services to anywhere in the country. With easy integration into all major eCommerce plataforms Amazon, Walmart, Shopify, TikTok Shop, BigCommerce, eBay) and fast product store onboarding, ShipBots has the technology, team, and resources to grow with your business. Get in touch for a free quote today!