June 24, 2024

Brad Marolf

Business & Finance Wonders

E-commerce giants Alibaba, JD.com keep Singles’ Day sales results under wraps amid China’s economic woes, zero-Covid-19 policy

Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba Group Holding and JD.com on Saturday concluded their latest promotions for Singles’ Day, the world’s largest shopping festival, with a nod to the resilience of the country’s consumer market, despite the impact of macroeconomic headwinds this year.

But in separate statements, both companies for the first time withheld announcement of their gross merchandise volume (GMV), or final sales tally, from the annual online and offline shopping extravaganza that culminates on November 11, known as “11.11”.

Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, said its 14th annual 11.11 campaign “delivered results in line with last year’s GMV performance, despite macro challenges and Covid-related impact”. Alibaba’s GMV in November last year grew 8.45 per cent year on year to a record 540.3 billion yuan (US$84.5 billion), which marked the first single-digit GMV growth since the company created the shopping festival in 2009.

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JD.com, by comparison, said it had set a “record-breaking” 11-day Singles’ Day promotion, which started on October 31. The Beijing-based company posted a total GMV of 349.1 billion yuan in the same period last year.

Still, some industry analysts suggest that the GMV figures from this year’s Singles’ Day promotions paled in comparison from previous years. “Their results were probably too bleak to be revealed, so the platforms chose to keep them a secret,” said Li Weidong, a senior e-commerce analyst.

Singles’ Day is seen by many investors as a proxy for consumer spending in China as well as an important barometer of the country’s economic health.

By keeping their final Singles’ Day GMV numbers under wraps, Alibaba and JD.com have further toned down the traditionally extravagant event in the wake of China’s sluggish economy, disruptions caused by the pandemic and continued snap lockdowns under Beijing’s zero-Covid-19 policy.

The event started to become more low-key in November last year in the wake of Beijing’s regulatory crackdowns on Big Tech companies. This year, there was neither a carnival atmosphere nor multibillion-dollar galas featuring appearances by celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey.

Alibaba, meanwhile, indicated that this year’s event showed “the resilience and vibrancy of China’s consumption sector”, said Chui Xue, president of industry development and operation centre for the company’s Taobao Marketplace and Tmall platforms. “Our priority for this 11.11 was to enhance certainty for our merchants’ operations.”

Hangzhou-based Alibaba’s Singles’ Day campaign this year featured more than 290,000 brands from more than 90 countries and regions, covering 7,000 product categories. It said more than 300 million consumers watched live-streaming sessions hosted on Taobao Live since the start of its presale period, while logistics arm Cainiao delivered over 120 million parcels.

Employees sort packages for delivery during China’s Singles’ Day shopping festival at a logistics centre in Lianyungang, in eastern Jiangsu province, on November 11, 2022. Photo: AFP alt=Employees sort packages for delivery during China’s Singles’ Day shopping festival at a logistics centre in Lianyungang, in eastern Jiangsu province, on November 11, 2022. Photo: AFP>

JD.com said it provided nearly 20 million new items during this year’s Singles’ Day campaign. The bestselling new products fall under the categories of smartphones, laptop computers, washing machines, refrigerators and flat-screen televisions. Shoppers aged under 35 accounted for 63 per cent of the total new customers on JD.com during its campaign.

“This Singles’ Day, JD.com further increased its investment in optimising the ecosystem, lowering operations costs and improving service guarantees to help brands and merchants, especially SMEs, seize growth opportunities,” said Xin Lijun, chief executive of JD Retail.

Total online retail sales of physical goods on the mainland grew 6.1 per cent year on year in the first three quarters this year, down from 15.2 per cent growth rate in the same period in 2021, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.