Singles’ Day: Chinese Shoppers Spend $139 Billion During Festivities, Breaking Last Year’s Record

Chinese shoppers spent $139.1 billion during this year’s annual Singles Day shopping, breaking last year’s record, even as spending slowed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alibaba Spending on the festival, which ran from November 1 to November 11, increased CNY 540.3 billion ($84.5 billion), the company said on Thursday, a 14 percent increase compared to a nearly 93 percent increase last year.

Rival reported CNY 349.1 billion ($54.6 billion) in transactions this year, an increase of about 28 percent from October 31 to November 11, compared to a 32 percent increase in 2020.

The slowdown in growth for the world’s biggest online shopping festival, which usually ends on November 11, comes amid less marketing hype and crackdown on the technology industry.

Singles Day has been touted as the biggest online marketing event of the year. In previous years, festivals were heavily advertised weeks ahead of time, with brands and merchants offering huge discounts to attract consumers looking for a bargain.

But shoppers say deep discounts on what’s also known as the “Double Eleven” are a thing of the past and experts are predicting fewer sales as the economy slows.

This year, Alibaba, the e-commerce platform that pioneered the online shopping festival more than a decade ago, decided not to show the running tally of its real-time gross merchandise volume (GMV) – which can be seen as a whole. was defined as the transaction volume. Its platform – on its site for shopping festivals, in a more muted tone than the spectacular marketing campaigns of previous years.

Chinese regulators have cracked down on technology companies, probing giants such as Alibaba and food delivery firm Meituan over alleged anti-competitive practices.

Earlier this year, Alibaba was fined a record $2.8 billion for violating antitrust rules. Ahead of Singles Day, Alibaba, rival and Meituan were among companies asked to curb excessive marketing text messages sent to consumers during the festival.

Last week, 16 e-commerce platform operators – some of which are linked to Alibaba and Meituan – were also called out by regulators in the southern province of Guangdong and warned over “unfair competition”.

The platform has also engaged in marketing propaganda to align itself with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for “common prosperity”, which includes curbing excess and advocating for a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources.

Michael Norris, research strategy manager at Shanghai-based consultancy agency China, said: “The decision not to publish the GMV tally leads China’s leading e-commerce platform to believe that its consumption performance is not in line with current ‘general prosperity’ themes. “

“Not publishing the GMV tally may appease local sensibilities, but without careful management, it could scare off foreign investors who are already worried about Alibaba’s growth prospects,” he said.

Online retailer also did not publicly stream the ongoing tally of sales this year. But it held a media event on Thursday, where a counter showed shoppers had spent more than $48 billion as of 2 p.m. local time.

While it was common to see consumers taking advantage of deep discounts to stock up on daily necessities at the previous Singles Day celebrations, consumption habits have changed.

Demand is weak amid the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, and Singles Day is now competing with other e-commerce festivals throughout the year.

“2021 is a year of difficult times. There are epidemics and various disasters, economic growth is slow and the stock market is not performing well,” said Beijing resident Hua Wei.

“These scare people a little bit. After all, if you hold onto your money, you have a stronger sense of security,” she said. “I think people are also more rational when it comes to consumption.”

Another shopper, Jiang Chen, said he cracked down on impulsive shopping this year, only buying what he needed.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to waste time and energy to save a little money, so the things I buy are what I want,” he said, like snacks and fruit.

Jiang seemed happy with a low-key approach to the festival.

“I expect that in the future (Singles Day) sales there will be less exaggeration and promotion, and that the discounts will be bigger,” he said.

Meng Xiaolu, a sales manager living in the eastern province of Zhejiang, said she spent most of her shopping budget for the month on singles-day sales of cosmetics and clothing.

“Due to the pandemic, I am not able to travel and take vacations, so I can only find some joy in online shopping,” she said. “I think shopping at Double XI has become a habit for the youth.”