Hong Kong (AFP) – Chinese consumers are expected to spend tens of billions on everything from fresh food to luxury goods during this year’s online shopping festival on Singles’ Day, as the country recovers from the pandemic.
The Shopping Festival, which is the largest in the world and falls on November 11 each year, is an annual splendor as Chinese e-commerce companies, including Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo, offer generous discounts on their platforms. Last year, shoppers spent $ 38.4 billion on the e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao.
This year’s festival will be watched closely as a barometer of consumption in China, which is just beginning to recover from the coronavirus pandemic after months of shutting down earlier in the year.
Analysts expect Chinese consumers to spend more on imported products and foreign luxury brands, as many Chinese tourists have been unable to travel internationally due to the coronavirus pandemic and the tightening of travel restrictions.
A survey by consulting firm Oliver Wyman found that 86% of Chinese consumers would like to spend the same amount or more during the Singles’ Day Festival last year.
“In the past six months or so, wealthy families have already spent more money,” said Shaw Chen, leader of customer competency and strategies for EY in Greater China. “We are also seeing purchases of luxury products increasing due to international travel restrictions.”
Sales of electronic goods and health and wellness products are also expected to increase, as more people work from home and pay more attention to their health amid the pandemic, according to a report by the consulting firm Bain & Company.
To help merchants cope with the impact of the coronavirus, online platforms have extended the period of the shopping festival this year in hopes of boosting sales.
Alibaba and JD.com, the country’s two largest e-commerce companies, began offering discounts on October 21, three weeks before November 11. Some brands and dealers who slashed their prices have booked hundreds of millions of yuan (tens of millions of dollars) in sales just hours after the shopping festival started.
Tang Chenghui, an electrical engineer who lives in Beijing, sees Singles’ Day as an opportunity to stock up on snacks and imported products like milk from Australia. Before the festival, Tang pre-ordered 3 cans of duck eggs, 10 packages of soybean milk powder, and 2 cans of yogurt, coffee and wine.
“I buy more snacks this year because I just moved into a new apartment and I have enough storage space to store the snacks I like,” Tang said. “Some of these products are really cheap during Singles’ Day sales.”
Unlike Black Friday and Internet Monday in the US, Singles’ Day in China isn’t just about deep bargains. Alibaba has been a pioneer in the Singles’ Day concept and has an annual party on November 11th with celebrity shows to entertain shoppers.
E-commerce companies do not divide Singles’ Day sales volume by brands, so it is difficult to know which share goes to foreign companies, although some companies may advertise their performance.
Live Sales and Alibaba Annual Party are part of the “shopping” trend that blends shopping and entertainment to become more attractive and engaging shoppers.
The mini-games within online shopping platforms attract shoppers with greater discounts while encouraging them to spend more time inside the app.
“Due to COVID-19, brands and retailers on e-commerce and direct commerce have doubled down to drive growth, and will appear strongly on (Singles’ Day) this year,” said Wang Xiaofeng, Forrester’s chief analyst.
But while millions of shoppers spend hours on the mini-games hoping to secure better deals, some are bothered by the complexities required to win such discounts.
“Black Friday discounts tend to be better, and they’re more pronounced,” said Liu Zero, 27, a Beijing accountant. “Now, I still ask my friends to help me buy things from the United States during Black Friday.”
“The rules regarding the Singles’ Day sale are now getting more complex,” she said. “I usually only spend my money on Black Friday, and buy less on Singles Day.”
Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.