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dbox partners Alick Niu and Craig Newth.
An export distributor that specialises in selling prestige New Zealand products to Chinese customers online, now plans to expand with hundreds of bricks and mortar stores in China.
Distribution Box Ltd (dbox) has quickly become one of New Zealand’s top e-commerce sites in this market and aims to have a customer base of more than 10 million within five years. 
Auckland-based dbox boasts a range of high-profile FMCG, beauty and health product suppliers and acts as an intermediary for those brands to market their products to more than 6,000 Chinese agents based here. This network then on-sells to China-based connections with dbox exporting thousands of products daily.
The expansion will see dbox carve a direct route to Chinese consumers, with franchised stores planned throughout China commencing from mid-2016. dbox already has several hundred products in-store complementing thousands available on their online retail platform.
The proposed stores will give customers the ability to experience brands synonymous with New Zealand’s clean, green image – they can touch, smell, taste and try them – and franchisees are remunerated for future online purchases.
High-profile brands using dbox include Fonterra, Bluebird, Go Healthy, Heatheries, Nutrilife, Frucor, Earthwise, Mount Riley Wine and cosmetic brands Karen Murrell and Antipodes. 
The Albany-based company will next week host a trade expo – dbox v2.0 – where it will offer the franchise opportunity to their loyal NZ Chinese customers who have vast networks in China. Approximately 30 well-known Kiwi brands will also exhibit their products. 
dbox partners Alick Niu and Craig Newth will also host a delegation of New Zealand manufacturers at a major international trade show in China next month.
“Less than nine months since we launched, we have quickly built a powerful network and now we are ready to extend our presence in China with O2O [online to offline] mechanisms,” dbox managing director, Niu says. 
The concept store in the Yiwu City’s International Trade Centre, Zhejiang province has already exceeded projected sales targets, “so we have a proven sales model for interested franchisees. We are attracting Kiwi brands because we provide them with a seamless and efficient way to market in China. Forging your own connections can take months and years.”
dbox has grown from a Dunedin based e-commerce platform developed by Niu in 2009. Originally from Hebei province next to Beijing, Niu founded, and relocated to Auckland five years ago.
 “We are a trusted source for Chinese as we deal direct with the manufacturer, and there is peace of mind that the products are genuine. In turn our suppliers know their brands are in safe hands,” Niu says. “We leverage this country’s green and healthy image – 100% Pure NZ is something everybody knows.”
He likens the service dbox provides, fast-tracking exports into China, as going from driving a car to driving an express train. 
“Within weeks they can be selling New Zealand products in a store in China, with minimal overheads. They do not have to invest in a lot of stock, we can tailor their stock levels and get it to them quickly. And as their network grows, we grow with them.” 
Tentative beginnings
When dbox approached Mount Riley Wines, managing director John Buchanan was tentative. “We started with a few cases and quickly moved to containers. We export to 36 countries and have been [selling] in China through other people, but this has been by far the most successful,” Buchanan says.
“New Zealand is a worldwide exporter of sauvignon blanc but the China market is more inclined to want red wines. dbox has been proactive and experimented with several varietals to find what works.”
Eco-friendly cleaning brand Earthwise is stocked in the concept store and will join dbox at the China trade show next month.
CEO Jamie Peters admires dbox’s market knowledge: “We worked closely together on a competitive pricing strategy for distribution into China. dbox understands the market and competing brands and we liked their analysis of the market and their business model.”
Niu met business partner Craig Newth five years ago when he worked at Colliers International. Newth had established the Australasian distribution of Talon Technologies, later to be rebranded as Navman. They quickly built a strong rapport.
“We both value loyalty and can see the huge potential for dbox,” Newth says. “The buying power in China is phenomenal, we are confident our goals are modest – and only the beginning.”
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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