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Taobao Opens a New Furniture Store


I have, for a long time, imagined a Taobaotopia. A world where online shopping has drastically reduced the need for retail brick-and-mortars. Less demand for retail real estate means cheaper office and housing space. Or more space for parks. Swimming pools. Unicorns.

But now, Taobao has thrown my world into a tailspin by opening a giant showroom. Not an online showroom, but a real, physical showroom. Has my Taobaotopia gone wrong?

The Taobao furniture showroom: a half an Ikea

It turns out, Taobao understands me better than I understand myself. One of the few real-world places that I still shop is Ikea. But it is always a half-nasty experience.

The crowds are terrible, and can be especially dangerous when you introduce shopping carts full of curtain rods and overstuffed bags of pillows.. Making the journey from the showroom to the warehouse is like descending into the dark pits of hell. And the weekend checkout lines are a disaster. Would you like it delivered? A second checkout line awaits!

The Taobao Furniture Showroom promises to scrub all that by putting transaction Online where it can be handled cleanly. Apart from the pack-it-flat, build-it-yourself principle, one of Ikea’s big efficiency innovations was to let customers find their own stuff in their big warehouse.

Time to give it a try

The five-story 25,000sqm Taobao Mall iFengChao Furniture Showroom, located southeast of Sihui subway station (just outside the East Fourth Ring Road) opened its doors last Friday to big crowds. The Washington Post reports that Taobao is using these stores to make progress in one of the few sectors where e-commerce is still weak.

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