Singles Day Once Again Sets Records, But Growth Is Slowing

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Alibaba set a new record on the 10th annual Singles Day by reaching more than $30.8 billion or 213.5 billion yuan in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 24 hours on Sunday.

This represented a 27% increase over 2017’s total, down from a 39% gain in the prior year and 32% in 2016. Also, analysts and observers continue to question Alibaba’s use of the GMV metric, which doesn’t equate one-to-one with sales revenue and produces rosier figures. In fact, Alibaba came under scrutiny from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission two years ago for its use of GMV in Singles Day calculations.

CNBC reported GMV on Singles Day surpassed last year’s $25.3 billion at 4:30 a.m. EST on Sunday and continued to climb as the day went on. In Chinese currency, GMV totaled 213.5 billion yuan this year, beating last year’s 168.2 billion yuan.

The Chinese currency is weaker against the dollar relative to 2017, meaning more sales in yuan were required to get the same dollar amount.

Singles Day started strong with GMV hitting $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds, according to CNBC. Just over an hour into the event, it topped $10 billion, faster than 2017 by over five minutes. The number of delivery orders for Singles Day surpassed one billion. Alibaba had major discounts across its ecommerce sites including Tmall.

“Countries outside of China took advantage of 2018 Singles Day sales too, with sales volume from Chinese companies to Russian purchasers on the Admitad network doubling from the same time period last year,” said Ksenia Pescherovia, PR Director for Admitad.

While Singles Day once again was a major media event in China, with appearances by Chinese celebrities as well as Mariah Carey, Miranda Kerr, Daniel Craig, Scarlett Johansson and Kobe Bryant, some younger Chinese shoppers seemed lukewarm, according to the New York Times. Also, the Chinese economy is slowing, although Alibaba executive vice chairman Joseph C. Tsai said the prospects for a continued middle-class boom remain positive.

“That trend is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war,” Tsai said, according to the Times. “Any kind of short-term economic effects, we believe, will be cyclical.”

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