Alibaba Tops Singles’ Day Record Despite Sales Growth Slowdown
November 12, 2016
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. managed to set another Singles’ Day record even as sales growth lagged last year’s, as the nation’s economic slowdown prompted consumers to throttle back.
Sales on its e-commerce platform climbed 32 percent to 120.7 billion yuan ($17.8 billion), easily topping last year’s total of 91.2 billion yuan. But that growth pace dwindled from last year’s 60 percent, a function of the scale that Chinese’s biggest shopping day has achieved as well as an economy expanding at its slowest pace in a quarter century.
Dwarfing both America’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday, the 24-hour online promotion is closely watched for clues on the health of the economy and its largest online retailer.
Billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba pioneered the annual shopping spree in 2009 and has since transformed it into a social phenomenon, replicated by rivals including JD.com Inc. and now involving thousands of marquee labels across the world.
The e-commerce giant turned up the star-wattage for 2016, enlisting actress Scarlett Johansson, sports celebrity David Beckham, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and pop-rock band One Republic to headline a pre-sale gala and drum up international attention. Pop star Katy Perry pulled out at the last minute because of a family emergency.
Executives had set the bar high, confidently predicting another record-breaking endeavor even as a weakening yuan curbed enthusiasm for foreign wares.
"The consumption potential of 1.3 billion people in China is being uncovered," Ma said, speaking at a press event. "We can see the huge potential of the Chinese market."
China’s economy is increasingly dependent on its more than a billion consumers as global growth fizzles. Final consumption accounted for more than half of economic output last year.
Shoppers have so far shrugged off a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy, with retail sales rising by 10.7 percent in September, a record for the year. The growing middle-class is now demanding better quality products, and innovative ways to shop.
“Many foreign brands, with and without local China presence, will use this shopping event to further raise their brand profile with Chinese consumers,” said Andria Cheng, an analyst at eMarketer.
Singles’ Day was invented by college students in the 1990s as a counter to Valentine’s Day, according to the Communist Party-owned People’s Daily. Written numerically, Nov. 11 is reminiscent of “bare branches,” a local expression for bachelors and spinsters. It’s since morphed into a consumption phenomenon involving months of planning, millions of logistics and technology personnel, and a nationwide cascade of ads and promotions.
The best-selling items on Friday included Apple Inc. iPhones, Nike and Adidas gear and Haier appliances, the company said on its official blog. Alibaba’s U.S.-traded shares fell 2.7 percent at 11:27 a.m. in New York.
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