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Alibaba, fail to inspire in discount-led Singles’ Day shopping gala

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Alibaba Group and reported sales increases during China’s most important shopping festival, yet likely lagged newer entrants from social media platforms like ByteDance’s Douyin during a muted year for consumer spending.

Analysts hunted for clues after China’s two e-commerce leaders again failed to disclose overall revenue numbers during Singles’ Day, the annual bargains extravaganza.

Originally a 24-hour online shopping event held on November 11 each year in China, the Singles’ Day festival – a nod to the digits in the date – has expanded into weeks of promotions across the country’s major e-commerce platforms and in brick-and-mortar stores.

Historically used as a barometer for Chinese consumer sentiment, it has become much harder to parse since companies stopped providing precise figures during the COVID-19 era. Alibaba and likely managed one per cent to three per cent growth in gross merchandise value over the three- to four-week period leading up to November 11, when merchants embarked on their discounting spree, Goldman Sachs estimated.

Smaller rival PDD Holdings, however, which targets lower-income and rural markets, racked up growth of 20 per cent, analyst Ronald Keung estimated. PDD owns Chinese shopping platform Pinduoduo.

Data provider Syntun, meanwhile, estimated cumulative gross merchandising volume (GMV) sales across major e-commerce platforms rose 2.08 per cent to CNY1.14 trillion, slower than the growth of 2.9 per cent in 2022.

Alibaba and report earnings this week in a closely watched signal of how domestic consumption has recovered.

“The slowing growth shows we need to roll out large-scale economic stimulus measures that are strong enough to lift market confidence and drive up the economy,” well-known economist Ren Zeping, who was formerly a researcher at the State Council’s Development Research Centre, wrote yesterday.

Singles’ Day this year focused on a low-price strategy to draw in reluctant consumers. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES