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The backstory: As we say goodbye to Singles' Day, or the iconic "Double 11" in China, let's go back to its origins and how it evolved into a shopping phenomenon. Starting as "Bachelor's Day" at Nanjing University back in 1993 as a response to Valentine's Day, it’s grown into a massive online shopping extravaganza that sees its peak on November 11. It really became huge when Chinese e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba entered the scene in 2009. This transformed the day into a retail giant, beating even the scale of Black Friday in the US. Today, China's Singles' Day is a huge economic event for the entire country and is more about snagging great deals than celebrating being single.
More recently: Last year threw a curveball into the mix as people were shopping and buying less because of the cloud of COVID lockdowns and soaring inflation. "Double 11" sales still rocked at 1.15 trillion yuan (US$157.97 billion), but its growth slowed to a record low of 3% last year.
The development: In the aftermath of Singles' Day 2023, Alibaba and JD.com reported big sales hikes. Alibaba's gross merchandise value and order volume increased compared to last year, while JD.com hit new sales records. But, both giants kept the specific figures under wraps for the second year.
This year’s Singles' Day seemed to be focused on low prices. For instance, Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall slashed prices by 15% on about 210 million orders. On the flip side, JD.com's Baitiao, its credit payment arm, injected over 1.5 billion yuan (US$205.8 million) in subsidies, pushing more than 60 brands into the billion-yuan sales club. China's postal system handled 639 million packages on November 11 alone, which was 16% more than last year.
All eyes are now on the upcoming earnings reports of Alibaba, JD.com and Tencent this week, providing insights into how China’s domestic consumption is doing.
“In general, [a] pricing war has been the biggest competition moat across all [Chinese e-commerce] platforms this year,” said Citi analysts in a research report last week.
“Sport is back in China, you can just feel it,” said Nike CEO John Donahoe.
"The presale period of Tmall and particularly on – in general, the Singles Day, confirms a softer trend versus a year ago," said Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda last week.