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China’s Alibaba.com debuts U.S. e-commerce site

BY Dan Berthiaume

San Mateo, Calif. – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is debuting its U.S. e-commerce site, 11Main.com, with a beta rollout on Wednesday, June 11. The home page of the invite-only website says “We’re opening soon — our shop owners are getting unpacked and unsettled,” and has an online invite request option. (Alibaba has filed for an initial public offering in the United States, in May.)

The site also allows prospective sellers to request an invite to 11Main, which is headquartered in San Mateo, California. Like its parent company Alibaba, 11Main operates by letting other retailers and businesses sell goods through its platform in exchange for a small portion of the proceeds.

The site is charging a 3.5% fee per transaction and media reports indicate it is launching its beta rollout with 1,000 to 2,000 participating specialty retailers and boutiques from across the U.S. The site currently does not run any ads.

11 Main offers shops in a variety of categories including fashion & style, home & outdoor, jewelry & watches, baby & kids, collecting & art, and crafts, hobbies & toys.

"At 11 Main, we’re passionate about the shops we invite and helping them grow," said Mike Effle, president and general manager of 11 Main. "We’re constantly introducing new shop owners who represent the diversity of Main Street and featuring their new, amazing products in a beautifully designed experience."

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First Data: Consumer spending grows 4.2% in May

BY Dan Berthiaume

Atlanta — Consumer spending in the United States grew 4.2% year-over-year in May 2014, compared to April’s 4.1% year-over-year growth. According to Spend Trend analysis from First Data Corp., spending growth was driven by May’s warm weather, which specifically spurred spending on travel and home improvement.

Gas station spending growth of 3.6% was higher compared to April’s growth of 3.3% and was another key supporting factor in overall growth as gas prices remained elevated compared to the prior year. Retail spending growth of 1.7% marked a slight uptick compared to April’s growth of 1.3% as warmer weather across most regions, with the exception of the Northeast, supported retail foot traffic. Overall retail spending growth in May marked the strongest growth in seven months, primarily driven by spending at building material & supply dealers (6.7% in May compared to 3.6% in April) and furniture & home furnishings merchants (1.4% in May compared to -0.7% in April).

Average ticket growth of 1.2 % in May gained steam against April’s 0.5% growth, driven by higher year-over-year gas prices, higher food prices and an increase in some leisure-related categories. Retail average ticket growth of 0% was an improvement from April’s negative growth of -1.1% as many retailers returned to full price selling instead of discounting used to boost foot traffic during and after the extended winter.

“A number of factors, including normalized weather, pent-up demand, falling unemployment and rising home prices supported consumers’ willingness to spend in May,” said Krish Mantripragada, senior VP, information and analytics solutions, First Data. “Credit card spending growth continued to be strong and led all other payment types. The surge in spending growth at hotel and travel merchants, building material & home furnishing merchants, where credit is the primary payment tool, was a major driver supported by easing lending standards and payroll growth.”

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European Union tax investigation could affect Starbucks, Apple

BY Dan Berthiaume

Brussels, Belgium — The European Union (E.U.) is investigating lucrative tax breaks individual member countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have been giving major global companies including Starbucks and Apple. Media reports indicate the E.U. is focusing on whether certain tax loopholes these countries have provided some corporations qualify as “state aid,” which is prohibited under E.U. bylaws.

Countries do not face fines or legal action if any tax breaks are found to be in violation of E.U. rules, but they could be required to rescind the breaks and make the companies in question pay the additional tax.

Apple has avoided paying billions of dollars in taxes by operating a variety of subsidiaries in the E.U., and Starbucks pays a low corporate tax as a result of moving its European headquarters to the U.K. In a statement, Apple said it has not received any special treatment from Irish authorities in how it conducts business and pays taxes there.

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