© Reuters. A person walks past a JD.com advertisement promoting the Singles Day shopping festival, at a subway station in Beijing, China October 26, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/file photo

By Casey Hall

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Alibaba Group said its Chinese e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao recorded “positive” year-on-year growth during this year’s Singles’ Day sales period , which ended at midnight on Saturday. Meanwhile, rival JD (NASDAQ:).com said its festival’s GMV (gross merchandising volume) reached an “all-time high” during the sales period. Originally a 24-hour online shopping event held on November 11 each year in China, the “Singles’ Day” festival – a nod to the date’s numerals – has expanded into weeks of promotions on the country’s leading e-commerce platforms and in brick-and-mortar stores. This year was the second time Ali Baba (NYSE:) did not disclose the actual yuan value of its sales for its historic festival, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. Last year, when sales were affected by continued COVID restrictions across China, was the first time. The festival is closely watched as a gauge of consumer confidence, and expectations for sales growth this year have been muted as the economy flirts with deflation while experiencing an unsteady recovery.

E-commerce giant Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce player by market share, had been pressuring merchants to offer rock-bottom prices on Singles’ Day, announcing at the start of the festival at the end of October that it would offer 80 million products to their customers. the lowest prices this year for this successful event. The move was seen as a way to combat rivals such as Douyin and PDD Holdings. Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:) which have changed the Chinese e-commerce landscape in recent years by selling lower-cost and discounted items throughout the year. As a result, deep discounts of 40-50% were much more common than in previous years. A Bain and Company report released last week found that 77% of 3,000 consumers surveyed planned to spend less or the same on Singles’ Day compared to last year.

Bain saw shoppers spending on essentials such as tissues, hand wash, instant noodles and pet food, while selling down and buying less in discretionary or expensive categories such as household appliances and furniture. Last year, the total value of goods sold during this shopping period totaled 1.15 trillion yuan ($157.97 billion), according to Bain. Although several consultancies predicted that GMV growth for Singles Day across all platforms would reach between 14% and 18% – returning to double-digit growth for the first time since the pandemic – the final sales picture will put more time to take shape. These GMV figures take into account the value of all orders placed and will not take into account the amount that will be returned later. Analysts and industry executives expect return rates to be high this year as consumers buy more to get bigger discounts at checkout, only to return items they don’t have. no need. Products related to health, wellness and outdoor lifestyles are expected to outperform, with global brands such as Nike (NYSE:) and Lululemon (NASDAQ:) should sell well. Alibaba reported that sales of road bikes jumped 300% in the first hour of sale. Color cosmetics, traditionally a strong performer throughout the Singles’ Day sales period, are expected to struggle this year as demand for makeup remains weak almost a year after China lifted strict restrictions on it to COVID-19.

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