This November 11th, China’s Singles Day broke sales records.
According to data released by Alibaba, the Paypal-like Tmall Alipay transactions hit 100 million yuan ($16.42 million) within the first fifty-five seconds of this year’s sales event. Sales exceeded 17.52 billion yuan ($2.876 billion) around noon, and a whopping 35 billion yuan ($5.746 billion) in sales by the end of the day, breaking last year’s record. Alibaba’s websites alone sold more than $3 billion worth of goods on last year’s Singles Day.
“Thirty billion yuan is not a surprise. What we care more is something behind the figure, such as helping more companies build their capabilities and benefiting the whole society through a variety of economic operation.” said Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.
This year, the largest single transaction was made by a woman who spent 20.5 million yuan ($4.1 million) on a 13.33 karat diamond. Electronics, apparel, baby products and financial products are among the most sought-after categories. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi was one of the big winners with its single store sales reaching 100 million yuan ($16.4 million) for the first time.
Similar to Black Friday in the West, Singles Day, or Guanggun Jie (光棍节) for young Chinese to celebrate their bachelor life, has become a major windfall for retailers in China.
Conceived as an anti-Valentine’s Day, the four “ones” holiday was initially celebrated by various universities in Nanjing. Now it has become an online shopping carnival among fashionable young Chinese, many of whom flock to China’s e-commerce sites like Tmall to purchase gifts for themselves or their single friends.
Four years ago, the Alibaba-owned Tmall (formerly known as Taobao Mall), the biggest online B2C platform in China, grabbed the opportunity to offer deep discounts on 27 brands on Singles Day. Since then, November 11th has become an annual promotional event for Tmall. Alibaba COO Zhang Yong said their initial idea was very simple – find a date that brings awareness to their online shopping platform.
Zhang’s team eventually selected November 11th because they felt the stress of being single could be easily refocused to shopping. Lacking a holiday event, November traditionally has been a slow retail month compare to the National Day Golden Week in October and the Christmas/New Year holiday in December. Alibaba thought Singles Day could be a selling point and initiated their Singles’ Big Promotion two years ago.
The record-breaking online shopping spree from Singles Day indicates that e-commerce has become a major driver for domestic demand. The Chinese authority has promised to boost domestic demand earlier this year. China’s e-commerce sector was worth 8.1 trillion yuan, with online shopping contributing 16 percent, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Jack Ma predicted that China’s e-commerce industry would generate millions of small businesses and have the capacity to serve over one billion consumers worldwide.