AliExpress logistics centre set to be built close to country's border with Germany as overall e-commerce levels soar.
Poland is set to be the site of major new AliExpress logistics centre, serving its host country as well as online shoppers in neighbouring Germany and the Czech Republic. The new centre is to be a joint venture between the Alibaba-owned online marketplace, the Shanghai-headquartered Worldwide Logistics Group (WWL) and ATC Cargo, a multi-modal Polish freight delivery company.
The move is seen as recognition of AliExpress' success in building its customer base in eastern and central Europe. Although Allegro – Poland's take on eBay – remains the most popular e-commece site in the new centre's host country, the Chinese online platform has made huge strides in terms of building market share and consumer awareness. As a sign of this, in an October 2017 survey conducted by PayU, the Dutch fintech company, AliExpress was namechecked by 62% of Poland's online shoppers when they were asked to identify e-commerce market leaders.
Another factor in the choice of Poland as the site of the new centre is its strategic geographical advantage with regard to the aims of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China's ambitious international infrastructure development and trade facilitation programme. This would see Poland function as the primary land conduit between China and the mega-markets of Europe, particularly Germany's 81-million strong consumer base. As a wider acknowledgement of the country's geographical advantages, Amazon has already begun work on its own US$876 million logistics facility in Szczecin, a city in northwest Poland set close to the German border.
One of the advantages of the new AliExpress facility is that, for the first time, it will allow businesses in the region to buy goods in small batches rather than by the container-load, as has been the previous practice. It will also help to manage the increased traffic between China and Poland, with some 500,000 parcels handled in 2017, a 200% increase on the previous year.
One negative aspect of this increased throughput, however, is that the huge surge in the volume of trade has spurred moves by the Polish government to clamp down on VAT avoidance on the part of the country's e-shoppers. Poland, unlike most other European countries (with the exception of France), does not waive the duty on imported e-commerce items valued at up to $55. To date, though, the Polish treasury has taken no action to enforce payment on such items.
In light of the increasingly large sums involved, however, actions are now being taken to ensure that such payments are processed. The most likely solution will see buyers permitted to specify the value of each delivery online, with the government's own system verifying this with the relevant e-commerce platform.
● In other moves, the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) has now signed a fintech cooperation agreement with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). This will see the two bodies working together on a range of fintech-related research projects, while also facilitating a wider exchange of information, mutual consultation and a greater overall level of knowledge and expertise interchange.
Anna Dowgiallo, Warsaw Consultant