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Office Depot and Alibaba are creating a co-branded online shop.

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The two companies announced the agreement on Monday as part of a broader array of services they are providing to small business.

Over time, the companies intend to help US small businesses sell their products to buyers around the world through Alibaba.com, the wholesale trade site of the Chinese online retail titan the Alibaba Group.

It marks Alibaba.com’s first US partnership with a major retailer.

The lion’s share of Alibaba Group’s business has been providing retailers and brands in the US and around the globe access to the 700 million Chinese customers through its two major marketplaces Taobao and Tmall.

The core of Alibaba.com’s business is connecting small businesses with its more than 150,000 suppliers worldwide, a catalogue of product listings and manufacturing capabilities.

So Office Depot’s small- and medium-size business customers will be able to find a broader array of products or a reputable supplier to make their goods in a faster and more effective way.

The agreement will give Alibaba access to Office Depot’s 10 million business customers and 1,800 sales agents.

Office Depot has struggled in recent years with intense competition from Amazon.com, which has been increasingly invading on the office supplier chain’s turf by offering office supply sales for US companies.

Office Depot still has 1,350 physical stores. But its new CEO Gerry Smith has been pushing the company to go beyond selling office products to become more of a one-stop shop for businesses for all service at a time when small businesses’ biggest challenges are cash and time.

Nearly 70 per cent of its Office Depot’s annual sales now come from business customers, up from about 49 per cent a few years ago, Office Depot said.

Associated Press

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