Alibaba’s Singles Day sales top $74 billion, planned rules hit shares

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A screen shows the value of goods being transacted during Alibaba Group's Singles' Day global shopping festival, in Hangzhou

By Josh Horwitz

HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) – Alibaba sales for its post-COVID-19 Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza hit $74 billion, a haul that was overshadowed by a 10% drop in its shares on Wednesday after China published draft anti-trust rules aimed at internet platforms.

The world’s biggest sales event – eclipsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States – spanned 11 days this year, and brought sellers on AliBaba’s platforms 21 times as many orders by value as Amazon.com Inc’s two-day global Prime Day last month.

Such is its size that its performance is widely considered indicative of China’s post-virus economic recovery.

Alibaba rivals JD.com Inc and Pinduoduo Inc as well as firms such as Douyin – the Chinese version of Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd’s TikTok – also held Singles’ Day events.

“Because of COVID-19, many Chinese cannot go overseas,” Vice President Liu Bo told reporters. “This actually stimulates online consumption.”

Alibaba gave shoppers more time to shop this year, setting primary discount days for Nov. 1 through Nov. 3 as well as the usual Nov. 11, and is calculating gross merchandise volume (GMV) over all 11 days.

GMV hit 498.2 billion yuan ($74.1 billion) Alibaba said, as lockdown-weary consumers splashed out on as many as 16 million discounted goods at the event.

JD.com, which started promotions on Nov. 1, said it generated 271.5 billion yuan in trade over the same period.

The performance provided little relief for Alibaba investors as they focused on the proposed anti-monopoly rules that could increase scrutiny on e-commerce marketplaces and payment services.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Hong Kong-listed shares closed 9.8% down, in line with other Chinese tech giants. The group lost about 10% of its market value last week when regulators scuppered the listing of fintech affiliate Ant Group.

Its New York-listed shares fell 1.3% before recovering slightly to trade 0.9% up by 1756 GMT.

KATY PERRY AND MOBILE GAMES

The event, launched in 2009, is usually a glitzy, single-day affair with live performances. Last year, it clocked record GMV of $38.4 billion. This year, U.S. singer Katy Perry appeared at Alibaba’s gala, albeit via livestream.

As well as offering straightforward price cuts, the event allowed shoppers across Alibaba’s platforms to play mobile games for deals, combine purchases across shops and place orders in the sale’s early hours to get the best offers.

Over 340 firms, including Apple Inc, L’Oreal SA and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], exceeded 100 million yuan in sales, with 13 brands recording GMV above 1 billion yuan, Alibaba said.

Analysts also expect this year to be a boon for luxury brands, as consumers accustomed to going overseas for high-end goods have been thwarted by coronavirus border closures.

But many shoppers had modest budgets.

A poll of Singles’ Day spending by Sina Entertainment found just 4% of 191,000 respondents planned to splurge over 10,000 yuan, versus 43% who aimed to spend less than 1,000 yuan.

“The consumer and spending data we’ll see coming out of 11.11 will be a terrific way to identify high-potential new products, trending brands and top categories,” said Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, a global research firm specialising in retail and technology.

To encourage spending, livestreamers thronged pop-up film studios at a building near Alibaba’s Hangzhou headquarters, touting the merits of goods on sale.

Luo Lima estimated she had been on camera promoting maternity products for 24 hours over the course of this year’s sales period, versus six hours on Singles’ Day two years ago.

“We stream continuously for six hours, with no break,” she said. “We start by eating a full meal, and getting in a good state of mind. We also prepare throat lozenges and vitamin drinks.”

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Hangzhou; Additional reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing, Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo and Melissa Fares in New York; Writing by Brendah Goh and Emelia Sithole-Matarise; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Christopher Cushing and Barbara Lewis)

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