SHANGHAI – Martha Stewart said Tuesday that she hopes to link up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to sell her Martha Stewart Living products in China and she wants to get started “asap” – but it is too soon to talk specifics.
“I think it’s an amazing company and what they’re doing is so right on in putting the buyer together with the seller in a clever and clear way. That’s an opportunity I want to be involved in,” she said, sporting a sparkly gold tunic top.
Stewart’s comments came at a press conference following a keynote speech at an Alibaba-sponsored event here. She also lavished plenty of praise on the company and its founder, Jack Ma, and revealed that she owns Alibaba shares.
Alibaba also declined to comment on details of any future partnership or collaboration, though it confirmed through a spokeswoman that the company is looking at further ways of working together with Stewart, and that her appearance at the Shanghai event shows its commitment to the growing homewares and lifestyle market.
Stewart said Alibaba offers “a very appealing way to sell product.” She added that she is considering brick-and-mortar stores for the Martha Stewart Living brand in China, although e-commerce seems to be her primary focus.
Stewart appeared at the Tmall Super Kitchen exhibition, which brings together Alibaba’s best international housewares partners as part of the two-week nationwide Tmall Global Home Festival. She then had lunch with a small group of female entrepreneurs based in China.
Stewart’s own brand does not sell on Alibaba’s Tmall platform directly but some of her products are currently available through Macy’s Tmall store.
“Two years ago I went to Hangzhou and had a meeting with Jack Ma and Alibaba executives. I was very interested in the whole Alibaba story and the great growth and the dynamism of the company,” Stewart explained. “I also saw Mr. Ma in New York for dinner several times and we talked and I invested in the company.”
The American lifestyle entrepreneur was effusive in her praise of Ma, describing him – along with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – as the “greatest merchants in the entire world.”
“In our few meetings, Mr. Ma was extremely open, very clear in his vision, intelligent and very sensitive to the customer. I’ve always said I want to be where the customer needs and wants me and Jack Ma is doing that better than anyone else,” she said.
In spite of cultural differences between the American middle class — which has embraced Stewart’s lifestyle message for decades and bought billions of dollars of Martha Stewart-branded merchandise — and China’s rising middle-class consumer, Stewart maintains that the desire for good quality products at an affordable price is universal and will certainly translate in the world’s most populous country.
“Our company is very good at adapting to different lifestyles. We are not coming to impose an American country-house style on a city landscape; that’s not what we’re about. We are about making great product that works no matter where and I think that will be the big difference,” she said.
“I have been watching [China’s] explosive growth and the move from the country to the city. Seeing many Chinese homes and apartment complexes, I noticed how much Chinese people need some encouragement to embrace a new, modern lifestyle,” said Stewart, adding that she has been visiting the country since 1982 and her grandchildren are speaking Mandarin. “I hope our product, which stands for good quality and design, will be appealing in this market. I mean, you can only try.”