Friday 12/4/20
BUSINESS

China's Singles Day: New record for world's largest shopping festival

The unofficial holiday began as a tongue-in-cheek celebration for single university students in the 1990s, spreading nationwide from Nanjing as a day for young bachelors — known as 'bare branches' in China — to commiserate.

Alibaba offices. Photo: Alibabagroup.com.
Alibaba offices. Photo: Alibabagroup.com.

Chinese tech giant Alibaba achieved a new sales record on Wednesday, as China marked Single's Day, the world's largest shopping festival.

Some 30 minutes after the day's official launch at midnight, the group announced that it had made sales worth 372.3 billion yuan (56.4 billion dollars).

However the record is not comparable with other years because this time Alibaba has been offering special promotions for Single's Day since early November, which were included in the results.

Last year the group announced sales of 268.4 billion yuan. 

Alibaba said it offered two million products on its platforms, more than twice as many as in the previous year.

At its peak, 583,000 orders were placed per second. Other Chinese trading platforms were also expecting strong sales for Single's Day.

The unofficial holiday began as a tongue-in-cheek celebration for single university students in the 1990s, spreading nationwide from Nanjing as a day for young bachelors — known as 'bare branches' in China — to commiserate.

'Bare Branch Festival,' as it was dubbed, fell on November 11 because the four numerals representing the month and day resembled a bundle of branches, embodying both the participants' romantic solitude and how the day brings them together in solidarity.

Electronics, cosmetics

More than 250,000 brands had signed up for 2020's event, which will serve as one barometer for how far consumer sentiment has rebounded in the country since the strict lockdowns and subsequent economic downturn of earlier this year.

Alibaba's strong sales were overshadowed by several pieces of bad news for the company in recent days - last week Chinese regulators unexpectedly stopped the IPO of the company's financial subsidiary Ant Group.

There are also concerns that the regulatory authorities in China want to try to contain the enormous market power of Alibaba and other Chinese tech companies with new rules.

In addition to electronic and cosmetic products, analysts expected a particularly high demand for luxury items at this year's 'Singles Day'. Chinese people tend to prefer to buy these abroad, but this has not been possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alibaba had rung in the shopping festival with a customary grand gala leading up to midnight. This year US singer Katy Perry was the star guest, who performed via video link, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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