BEIJING— A Chinese holiday called Singles day brought in record sales again Wednesday, with millions of buyers flocking to e-commerce site Alibaba and other stores to take advantage of special sales.
It started in the 1990s as a way for single people in China to celebrate being single - the opposite of Valentine’s Day. Since then the holiday has transformed into a celebration of consumerism with stores and e-commerce sites offering huge sales.
“I think the original idea is to try and get people who are single and who are bored and at home in this November cold weather, to start shopping online. But then it spread out to everybody because the deals are too good,” explained Luo Rei, 30, a shopper in Beijing.
Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce site, said today it had racked up more than $9 billion in sales. That beats Alibaba’s previous record of $5.9 billion. In comparison, American shoppers spent just $1.2 billion during last year’s Black Friday.
Another online store called JD.com said sales in the first 10 hours of Singles day were 2.4 times last year’s volume, and many smaller and mid-size retailers say up to 15 to 20 percent of their annual revenue comes from sales on this one day of the year. Luo said many buyers like her will stock up on items for their homes.
“Just small stuff, like a blender, like home appliances. You can buy anything now. I am thinking of changing the curtains in my room, so I’m thinking of doing that,” she said.
The explosion of consumer spending comes at a time when China’s economy is slowing. The economy grew at 7.3 percent in the third quarter; that’s the slowest pace since the economic recession in 2009. China’s President Xi Jinping has promised deep and comprehensive reforms of China’s economy with a shift towards domestic spending as a driver of future economic growth.
Alibaba’s Executive Chairman Jack Ma said he hopes the e-commerce site and its 25,000 merchants will contribute to that transformation. He has said that “internal demand is much needed and [Alibaba] is fortunate enough to be able to tap this demand."
Jia Jinjing, a Professor of Finance at Renmin University, said Singles day and e-commerce sites are indeed changing China’s economy.
He said e-commerce offers convenient delivery and a safe payment system for online buying. Jia said e-commerce sites have changed people’s shopping habits in China.
Earlier this year Alibaba posted the largest initial public offering at $25 billion, with its value resting on the potential of Chinese consumer demand.