China’s top e-commerce giants have raked up over USD 45 billion during the annual online shopping fiesta “Single’s Day”, creating a new record in global retail sales for any single day. Alibaba Group, during its flagship event Double 11 (also called 11.11 sale), surpassed its last year’s “Single’s Day” sales of USD 18 billion, netting about USD 168 billion yuan (USD 25.3 billion) yesterday. Rival online retailer JD.com, the country’s second biggest online firm which started promotions at the beginning of this month, reported 127.1 billion yuan (about USD 20 billion) of orders. This was the eighth edition of the online shopping spree which had about 1,40,000 brands including 60,000 international. At least 331 million packages were handled by Chinese postal and courier companies yesterday, 31.5 per cent more than the same day last year, the State Post Bureau said, adding that the number represents only some of the 850 million orders, 29.4 per cent more than last year. The total gross merchandise volume or the amount of sales transacted on Alibaba’s platforms was nearly four times the combined online sales of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ in the US, Alibaba officials said. The event saw Alibaba taking a little over 13 hours to pass its total takings of USD 18.1 billion from “Single’s Day” in 2016, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post owned by Alibaba said.
The online shopping fiesta is held every November 11 since 2009, with local and global brands offering steep discounts on Alibaba’s ‘Taobao market place’ and ‘Tmall’ online stores. The practice began in the 90s when Chinese university students began celebrating being single and splurging on themselves in reaction to society placing so much emphasis on relationships. This year Alibaba also used robots and drones to do the heavy lifting on “Single’s Day” deliveries. The total takings of 168 billion yuan (USD 25.3 billion) were transacted when the clock struck midnight last night. “168.2 billion yuan sales is not only a record in China, but also a record worldwide,” said Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong. “Single’s Day is Olympic Games for Chinese merchants. Sales of 157 merchants exceed 100 million yuan; 17 merchants exceed 500 million; five merchants exceed 1 billion yuan,” he said.
An early glimpse of the buying frenzy was seen as consumers spent 10 billion yuan within only three minutes on Alibaba after the shopping spree kicked off. During a four-hour live broadcast of the gala event in Shanghai on Friday, Alibaba gave out 270 million yuan worth of rewards, including free trips to the Antarctic. Through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology, live images of actress Fan Bingbing were transmitted to audiences who could interact with the star via VR headsets from their homes. To top it off, Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun performed on stage with Hollywood star Nicole Kidman to promote “tai chi” and Chinese culture, the Post report said. Rising incomes among China’s 300 million-strong middle class consumers and their demand for better quality is helping transform the country’s economy from an export- and investment-led model to one that is driven by consumption, said Joe Tsai, co-founder and vice-chairman of Alibaba Group. Consumer spending in China accounted for 40 per cent of the GDP, compared with almost 70 per cent for the US, and reaching that level would translate to annual spending of USD 700 billion to USD 800 billion, he said.
“Retail is entertainment. Nowadays in China, the first greeting is not whether you have eaten, but how many items do you have in your shopping cart,” Tsai said. JD.com too recorded big sales in fashion and household appliances among the most popular categories, the company said. Richard Liu, founder and CEO of JD.com, said that over the last decade online merchants have developed to become the major driving force for retail. “Consumers are increasingly focusing on quality and the experience when it comes to shopping online,” he said.