April 18 (UPI) -- Amazon said Thursday it's pulling out of the lucrative and crowded e-commerce market in China.
The company told third-party sellers Amazon will stop operating its Chinese site Amazon.cn on July 18, ending its ability to sell direct to customers there. Chinese customers will still be able to use Amazon sites from other countries, however.
"Over the past few years, we have been evolving our China online retail business to increasingly emphasize cross-border sales, and in return, we've seen a very strong response from Chinese customers," an Amazon statement said. "Their demand for high-quality, authentic goods from around the world continues to grow rapidly, and given our global presence, Amazon is well-positioned to serve them."
Amazon's China site has been running since 2015 but sales have lagged behind those of Chinese retail giant Alibaba. Through the first six months of 2018, Amazon captured 1.2 percent of the nation's e-commerce market while Alibaba took 84 percent, according to iiMedia Research data.
Nonetheless, the company said it still considers China a priority.
"Amazon's commitment to China remains strong," the company said. "We will continue to invest and grow."
Experts believe Amazon's withdrawal from China could be a sign it will dedicate more resources into a growing market in India, where it's spent billions in recent years on more than 50 warehouses to support business there.