Alibaba's Singles Day beats Amazon Prime Day

Fredrick Soto
November 12, 2018

Online discounts have been offered on 11 November, Alibaba's informal holiday for singles, since 2009.

In it's 10th iteration, the annual Singles' Day event on 11 November notched 213.5 billion yuan ($30.7 billion) in merchandise sales, an increase of 27%, according to a tally posted at the event's media centre in Shanghai.

It crossed the $1 billion milestone in just 1 minute 25 seconds.

Still, Alibaba is intent on beating 2017's 39 percent growth and 168 billion yuan in transactions, a haul that dwarfed the signature US shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

"Alibaba is making use of all of its platforms to make Singles' Day a holiday that also includes dining and entertainment", Jet Jing, president of Tmall, one of the company's main sites, said at the Singles' Day event.

This year, Alibaba is hoping to up the ante, by combining online and in-person retail opportunities ー a vision Alibaba calls "New Retail".

Still, there was some uncertainty this year, as the trade war and deflating asset values threaten to disrupt economic growth.

Alibaba reportedly picked the date to organise a huge online sale to drum up revenues in what was traditionally a slow period between National Day in September and the Lunar New Year in February.

Alibaba's Singles' Day surpassed Amazon's biggest shopping day of the year in less than 10 minutes.

Early sales figures are an indication that China's ongoing trade war with the United States has done little to dent domestic consumption so far.

Over the last decade, Alibaba has nearly single-handedly turned Singles Day - November 11, or 11/11 - into a cultural phenomenon and by far the biggest day of the year for online shopping.

"People are swept up in the festivities", Hong said in a phone interview.

In the lead-up this year's event, there were concerns that Alibaba and other e-commerce sites like JD.com, which runs a similar sale, may be hit hard by new tariffs on USA goods.

The gala featured a number of celebrity appearances including model Miranda Kerr, Mariah Carey and Cirque du Soleil performers.

In the hours leading up to the shopping event, Alibaba's video streaming platform Youku hosted a gala countdown to mark the festival. At some point, when growth starts decelerating quickly, the event could change, to focus on one week's sales instead of one day's, or on something else entirely.

Analysts said the sales continued to be cannibalised by competing events, including the "618" festival spearheaded by Alibaba competitor JD.com Inc in June.

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