China’s Alibaba, JD report booming Singles Day sales

  • In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, shoppers react as they take part in a promotion ahead of Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Ng Han Guan

  • In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, shoppers visit a popular retail district ahead of Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Ng Han Guan

  • A big screen shows the online sales for e-commerce giant Alibaba surpassed RMB 100 billion or US14 billion at 01:03:59 after the Nov. 11 Tmall Shopping Festival started midnight in Shanghai, China Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Chinatopix Via AP)

  • In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, shoppers react after taking part in a promotion ahead of Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Ng Han Guan

  • In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, promoters hand out free gifts as part of a game to promote Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Ng Han Guan

  • In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, a child reacts after taking part in a promotion ahead of Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Ng Han Guan

AP Business Writer
Published: 11/14/2019 8:55:11 PM
Modified: 11/14/2019 8:55:00 PM

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com reported a total of more than $55 billion in sales Monday midway through Singles Day, an annual marketing event that is the world’s busiest online shopping day.

The day was temporary relief to retailers facing fading demand as Chinese consumers anxious over slowing economic growth and the tariff war with Washington tighten their belts.

University students created Singles Day in the 1990s as an alternative Valentine’s Day for people without romantic partners. Alibaba adopted it as a marketing tool a decade ago. It falls on Nov. 11 because the date is written with four singles — “11 11.”

Rivals including JD.com, China’s biggest online direct retailer, and electronics seller Suning joined in. The tactic has caught on in other Asian countries, too.

On Monday, retailers offered discounts on goods from smartphones to craft beer to health care packages.

“Yesterday night, I was browsing past 11 p.m. Many of my friends around me were staying up till 2 a.m. to buy stuff,” said Zhu Yirun, a graduate student in Beijing.

Alibaba said merchants’ sales on its platforms totaled 205.7 billion yuan ($29.4 billion) between midnight and mid-afternoon. JD.com reported sales of 179.4 billion yuan ($25.6 billion).

Alibaba kicked off the event Sunday night with a concert by Taylor Swift at a Shanghai stadum.

A lack of traditional retailing networks and government efforts to promote internet use have helped e-commerce expand rapidly in China.

Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu and other internet giants have expanded into consumer finance, entertainment and offline retailing.

E-commerce has created some of China’s biggest fortunes.

Monday was Alibaba’s first Singles Day since its founder, Jack Ma, stepped down as chairman in September.

Ma, 55, is China’s richest entrepreneur with a net worth of $39 billion, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy. He has stayed on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of the company’s board of directors.

Colin Huang of Pinduoduo was No. 7 at $19 billion. Zhang Jindong of Suning was No. 15 at $14 billion and Richard Liu of JD.com was No. 28 at $11 billion.

Last year, Alibaba reported Singles Day sales of 213.5 billion yuan ($30.8), or more than 13 times its daily average of about 16 billion yuan ($2.3 billion).

Suning said sales of smartphones and other electronics passed 1 billion yuan ($160 million) in the first minute after midnight. The company said later sales were up 86% over 2018’s Singles Day but gave no total.

Dangdang, an online book retailer, said it sold 6.8 million copies in the first hour.

Chinese online spending is growing faster than total retail sales but also is weakening as the economy slows. Growth declined to a multi-decade low of 6% over a year earlier in the quarter ending in September.

Online sales of goods rose 16.8% over a year earlier in the first nine months of 2019 to 5.8 trillion yuan ($825 billion), according to official data. That was more than double the 8.2% rate for total consumer spending but down from an average of about 30% in recent years.

E-commerce made up 19.5% of Chinese consumer spending, compared with about 11% of spending for American consumers.

Not everyone is crazy about joining in.

Yang Wei, a migrant worker in Beijing, planned to skip the online rush.

“I feel like the difference (in price) is not that big, and since everyone’s buying all at once, the logistics and delivery are slower,” said Yang. “I think that it’s actually better for me to buy when not everyone’s buying.”




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