The Wall Street Journal reports that China-based Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce provider, will spend $2.88 billion to acquire a 36 percent stake in Sun Art Retail Group, described as China’s “the second-largest big-box retailer.”

Sun Art, the Journal notes, has seen its revenue growth slow down some in recent years as the Chinese consumer class does more of its shopping online.

The story says that “Alibaba, which runs the world’s largest online shopping operation, sees traditional retail venues as a way to expand its reach into fresh foods while also creating new demand for its Alipay mobile-payment business and its logistics services.”

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang is quoted as saying that the acquisition makes sense because “physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalized services in the digital economy.”

KC's View: That statement from Zhang strikes me as a pretty specific for exactly how the relationship between digital and bricks-and-mortar retailing should work.

It’s why Amazon bought Whole Foods, and what it is trying to do with that relationship. I have to believe it is what Walmart/Jet is shooting for. And what Kroger and Albertsons and anyone else playing in the omnichannel segment has to be envisioning.

The story made me think about something else. Is it possible that Alibaba might decide that it makes sense to make a US acquisition - like Kroger or Ahold Delhaize, for example? Anything is possible, and the real question is what kind of impact such a move would have.