Alipay, the China-based mobile and online payments service, has been active over the past year signing up U.S. merchants, and on Tuesday it announced its latest addition: apparel seller Guess? Inc., which will accept Alipay at more than 50 of its stores in New York City, Las Vegas, and California, all places heavily traveled by Chinese tourists. Guess operates more than 1,600 stores worldwide either directly or through licensees.
Alipay, a service offered by the giant Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and its Ant Financial Services Group, has been working in recent months to dramatically expand its availability in the United States as Chinese tourism here grows. An estimated 4 million Chinese citizens visit the United States each year. U.S. stores accepting Alipay now include GNC as well as high-end brands Rebecca Minkoff, Lacoste, and Tourneau, according to an Alipay spokesperson.
Its strategy includes working with U.S. transaction processors to bring point-of-sale acceptance to merchants they connect to. In March, for example, the big Atlanta-based processor First Data Corp. expanded a nearly year-old agreement with Alipay by opening acceptance to 35,000 merchants, including Millennium Hotels and Resorts locations in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Processor agreements are critical for Alipay. Souheil Badran, president of Alipay Americas, said at the time that Alipay aimed to be accepted at “millions of additional merchant locations” this year. The original May 2017 announcement of the tie-up with First Data indicated the processor would ultimately enable Alipay acceptance at some 4 million U.S. merchants.
The 14-year-old Alipay service claims some 600 million active users, far outstripping U.S.-based mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. Alipay relies on quick-response (QR) codes for in-store acceptance. By contrast, the three U.S. services rely on near-field communication links between phones and POS terminals. In China, some 40 million physical merchants accept Alipay.
Alipay is one of three chief businesses for Ant Financial, along with loans and what is said to be the world’s largest money-market fund. Ant in June raised some $14 billion in a funding round, valuing the company at an estimated $150 billion.