What slowdown? Chinese spend big in ‘Singles’ Day’ shopping spree

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Chinese consumers closed in on a new spending record yesterday during the annual ‘Singles’ Day’ frenzy, the world’s biggest 24-hour shopping event, which kicked off this year with a glitzy show by United States (US) megastar Taylor Swift.

E-commerce leader Alibaba said that within the first 12 hours, nearly CNY192 billion (USD27.4 billion) had been spent – apparently on pace to shatter last year’s full 24-hour record of USD30.7 billion.

China’s economy is in the midst of an extended slowdown, exacerbated by the trade war with the US, and the Singles’ Day fire sale is viewed as a snapshot of consumer sentiment in the world’s second- biggest economy.

There was little hint of Chinese consumer belt-tightening, as USD1 billion was spent on Alibaba platforms in just the first 68 seconds. Total gross merchandise volume settled through its payments platform Alipay hit CNY100 billion within just 64 minutes – 43 minutes ahead of last year’s pace, the company said.

The promotion, now in its 11th year, kicked off at midnight with Chinese bargain-hunters snapping up everything from electronics to clothing and household goods via Alibaba and rival platforms.

As it counted down to midnight, Alibaba led up to the event with a gala show in Shanghai headlined this year by Grammy-winner Swift, whose soul-bearing love songs are hugely popular with young Chinese.

Singles’ Day, also called ‘11.11’ for the November 11 date, was originally set as an unofficial day for China’s unmarried millions.

But Alibaba, based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, latched on to it a decade ago as a shopping promotion akin to the late-November US ‘Black Friday’ retail crush, which ‘Singles’ Day’ now exceeds in sales.

Other Chinese online platforms and myriad retailers have tapped in as well.

Alibaba competitor JD.com, which held an 11-day promotion ending at midnight yesterday, said total sales so far had reached USD23.7 billion by yesterday morning, with hours to go, surpassing the USD22.4 billion reached for the entire 11-day stretch last year.

A worker sorts out packages at a delivery company warehouse to be delivered to customers during Singles’ Day – the world’s biggest 24-hour shopping event – in Beijing. PHOTO: AFP