The Singles Day stage in happier times (2019; photo credit Campaign Asia)
Singles Day, the prefab shopping holiday created by Alibaba in 2009, saw just 5% sales growth over 2021, experts polled by CNN estimated, compared to a 15.5% gain in 2021, as the inflation-fueled ecommerce slowdown and fresh COVID-19 lockdowns in China acted as a drag on results.
For the first time, neither Alibaba nor rival JD.com, which both take part, posted results for Singles Day, which ran worldwide on Nov. 10-11, an indicator of its lackluster performance. Both annually touted record-breaking sales in gross merchandise value (GMV) during Singles Day, a metric many analysts find suspect.
Alibaba reported Singles Day sales were up 8.5% last year, to $84.54 billion, the lowest gain reported at that time. JD.com saw much better results, with a 28% increase to $54.6 billion. Unlike Amazon’s Prime Day, major retailers like Target and Walmart don’t create me-too sales events tied to Singles Day, as it’s less well known here and would disrupt ongoing peak holiday season promotions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, government figures reported out of Beijing showed a meager 2.5% increase in retail sales for September, the most recent period, compared to a 5.4% gain the prior month. Unemployment inched up to 5.5% from 5.3% in August. China typically represents the lion’s share of Singles Day sales, although they were edged out by U.S. consumers in 2020.
Just 24% of respondents to a survey ahead of the shopping holiday by analyst firm Bain & Co said they planned to spend more on the holiday, Reuters reported, while Yipit Data said pre-order transactions on Alibaba-owned Tmall were flat from Oct. 24-31.
Gone are the star-studded extravaganzas of the Jack Ma years at Alibaba. In 2018, U.S. luminaries like Mariah Carey, Miranda Kerr, Daniel Craig, Scarlett Johansson and Kobe Bryant joined Ma and Chinese celebrities onstage as lights flashed and the tote board lit up.