By Mari Saito
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has signed exclusive partnerships with more than 20 apparel brands including Zara and Timberland, the Chinese e-commerce giant said on Thursday, the latest step to woo big international brands as it competes with rivals such as JD.com Inc.
Alibaba said its fast-growing online marketplace Tmall.com will become the only third-party online sales platform for the apparel brands in China. The Hangzhou, China-based company did not disclose details on financial terms of the agreements.
In China, a market notorious for the proliferation of fake and knock-off products, bagging international names can boost credibility and signal implicit trust.
Alibaba also said in its announcement that it will deepen its collaboration with more than 160 brands including Adidas and Gap.
"Apparel is one of the key product categories on Tmall. We have an extensive collection of brands on the platform, and it is imperative for us to deepen our collaboration with them so we can work together in more strategic ways to enable their success within our ecosystem," Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba's China retail marketplaces, said in a statement.
Alibaba recently picked former Goldman Sachs banker Michael Evans to lead its expansion outside of China as it tries to attract popular American and European brands to list products on its site. Alibaba has 350 million annual active buyers worldwide.
Alibaba's rival JD.com recently announced it would begin selling U.S. products like Converse, Samsonite and other major apparel brands to Chinese customers through a new store on its site.
Last month, Japanese retailer Fast Retailing Co Ltd said it had closed its Uniqlo store that it opened in April on JD.com, citing a conflict with its China e-commerce strategy. Alibaba declined to say if Uniqlo had agreed to an exclusive partnership with the online retailer.
(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by David Gregorio)