TikTok is disputing a report from The Wall Street Journal that it plans to hit pause on its plans to launch a shopping platform on its app in the U.S.
The newspaper, on Wednesday, reported the app has pushed the full launch of the shop from early spring until at least June, as merchants have been slow to join amid concerns about the social media service’s future in the U.S.
TikTok, in a statement to Fortune on Wednesday afternoon, however, denied this, with a spokesperson saying “The launch of TikTok Shop in the US has not been delayed. We’re committed to our strategy of testing and learning, and we’re excited to continue expanding our test in the US by inviting more merchants to join us as interest in Shop continues to grow.”
TikTok launched a small-scale, invite-only test of the platform last November. The spokesperson says it moved that test from alpha to beta in April of 2023, due to merchant interest.
The U.S. is the second biggest market for TikTok parent company ByteDance, and it has been eager to further monetize the platform. Political headwinds have made that challenging, though. The U.S. has threatened a ban on the app and the state of Montana has passed legislation banning the app on all personal devices. Officials worry the app poses a national security risk, gathering data on users which could be shared with the Chinese government.
“You have unified Republicans and Democrats and if only for a day, we’re actually unified because we have serious concerns,” Rep. August Pfluger (R.-Texas) told TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in March.
Despite the popularity of TikTok and other ByteDance apps (such as Lemon8), the Journal reports, the company has struggled with profitability, with 2021 losses of over $7 billion. The introduction of a shopping channel was one idea the company had to monetize its large user base in the U.S., especially as the digital advertising market slows.
TikTok has been a boon for product discovery and music discovery for its users, who tend to skew young. Converting that awareness to sales saw a tremendous potential market when the company began exploring the concept in 2021. A study at that time by research firm eMarketer predicted sales via social media apps could hit $50 billion by 2023.
May 10, 2023: This story has been updated to include comment from TikTok