Singles’ Day tops $9.3B in sales, breaks record

World Today

An employee shows the rising sales volume of Tmall, an online marketplace under Alibaba, in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, on Nov. 11, a holiday known as Singles Day that has become China’s busiest online shopping day. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)

In China, Nov. 11, or 11-11, is known as ‘Singles’ Day’. For China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, its the biggest shopping day of the year. The company announced today that sales on its platforms hit a record $9.3 billion, or 57.1 billion yuan. CCTV America’s Grace Brown reported this story from Beijing.

The 11th of the 11th was once a little-known Chinese holiday invented by students to celebrate being single. Then China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba, turned it into an online shopping bonanza. Merchants wanting to take part in the sale on its platforms, including Tmall and Taobao, must give shoppers discounts of at least 50 percent.

In return, Alibaba boosts website hits and support services for vendors, so they can run and market their stores better. With sales of $1.5 billion, or 10 billion yuan, in the first 38 minutes, the campaign seems to be working.

This year is the first time Alibaba has chosen to launch its Singles’ Day campaign on both its domestic and international platform, known as AliExpress. So far, customers from 217 countries and regions outside the Chinese mainland have joined the shopping spree, with Hong Kong, the United States and Russia claiming the three top-buyer areas.

This year, American Eagle, Zara, and Calvin Klein are among the international brands taking part in the super-sale for the first time.

Last year’s Singles’ Day made $5.7 billion, or 35 billion yuan in one day. That’s more than three times what Americans spent during Black Friday and Thanksgiving combined. One service of AliExpress that may reassure customers is that Alibaba holds their money from vendors until buyers receive their goods. AliExpress also charges a lower commission to vendors than Amazon and eBay.

Many Chinese consumers stayed up until the early hours of Tuesday to compete with millions of others for the bargain goods. Alibaba said the late-night shopping craze drove sales to hit the $1.6 billion, or 10 billion yuan, benchmark in 38 minutes. Last year, it took 6 hours to reach that amount and 13 hours in 2012.

Alibaba said nearly half of purchases had been completed on mobile devices, evidencing the rising popularity of online shopping on cellphones.

However, Jialin Jiang, an e-commerce analyst from market intelligence firm IDC China, said the day’s product range can’t compete with overseas rivals yet.

“It [AliExpress] is still in the very early stages, and it can only sell goods like t-shirts and mobile phones. It’s not like Taobao or Tmall. They are selling more than that. It can’t compare with Amazon and eBay, because it is still a little small, just like a child, but it will grow very fast,” Jiang said.

Since its listing on the New York Stock Exchange in September, Alibaba’s stock has surged more than 70 percent. Its executive chairman, Jack Ma, was invited to the APEC Summit in Beijing, but declined, saying he was busy with the Singles’ Day sale — a sign of just how important the day is for China’s e-commerce giant.

Click here to explore Alibaba and its record-breaking IPO

Story compiled with information by Xinhua News.

Brazil benefits from Singles Day sale

It’s not just Chinese shoppers bargain hunting during singles day. Their Brazilian counterparts are also going for big discounts on Alibaba. Brazil is also one of the key markets the e-commerce giant is targeting for expansion. CCTV America’s Lucrecia Franco reported this story from Rio de Janeiro.

Cristina Moura, a Rio de Janeiro secretary, heard about the AliExpress ‘Double 11’ festival in the news. The mother of two rushed to browse the website in search of bargains.

“When the products get here, the value I pay, plus the tax that will be included, can vary. Even then, it is all going to be infinitely cheaper than buying it here,” Moura said.

She spent less than $50 to purchase goods she couldn’t afford in Brazil. Although the e-commerce sector is growing, the market research firm Mintel conducted a survey that shows 67 percent of Brazilians do not shop online.

Analysts say Chinese companies like AliExpress are hoping to woo more Brazilian shoppers online. Brazil has the world’s fifth largest internet market and almost 90 percent of its 200 million inhabitants are internet users.

“The Chinese products are cheap, have quality, are good. We use them and like them a lot” said student Vitor Silva.

Luis Fernando Miller, founder of an e-commerce company, says launching the Double 11 in Brazil is a good strategy to attract more customers but delivery is still an issue.

“Specifically talking about the AliExpress operation, all the logistics are done in China for delivery in Brazil. Those logistics need to the meet the Brazilian consumers’ expectations, who are not used to waiting at least 30 days to receive their goods,” Miller said.

According to an private research firm Ibope, AliExpress is now the market leader in the country for units sold, with 11 million online orders between July and September. An Ibope survey found that AliExpress is well ahead of local brands that sold 7.2 million units during the same period.

Moura said she is happy with her bargain shopping and while she thinks it’s unlikely she will receive the goods by Christmas, she said it is worth waiting for.