Following on the heels of Walmart, Target, Kohl's, Staples, QVC and others, Suning Commerce Group, China's largest electronics retailer, last month opened a retail tech lab in Silicon Valley.
Already among China's top three e-commerce players, Suning said its research center in Palo Alto will be the first in a series of planned R&D centers in cities throughout the U.S., with others already set for New York and Seattle. The objective is to advance Suning's offline-to-online business model and bolster its back-office capabilities, which include Big Data, internet search, shopper analytics, cloud capabilities and internet banking.
At a grand opening ceremony for the California facility last month that included many local officials, Zhang Jindong, chairman of Suning, said the facility will also promote China-U.S. cooperation in science, technology and business.
"China is on pace to become the largest consumer market in the world," Mr. Zhang said in a statement. "Not only will Suning's sustained, long-term investment in innovation and new retail technologies drive aggressive business growth, it will help transform China from the world's factory into the world's market place."
Suning has more than 1,600 chain stores covering over 600 cities in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan. The company employs 180,000 people and grosses $37.7 billion in annual sales.
With an initial investment of $5 million, Suning said it's looking to hire 50 engineers and researchers at the Palo Alto center, growing eventually to 200.
A recent Associated Press story detailed how smartphones, social media and Amazon's advances have accelerated the need for traditional brick & mortar retailers to open R&D labs around San Francisco.
"Consumers expect immediate gratification," Lori Schafer, executive adviser at SAS Institute, told AP.