Singles Day Underwhelming for Alibaba, Slowest Growth Ever

singles day 2021

Singles Day 2021, really Singles Nearly Fortnight (to borrow a British term) running from Nov. 1-11, was hit by headwinds from an anemic economy, the pandemic, Chinese crackdowns and supply issues, increasing 8.5% to $84.54 billion for originator Alibaba, the lowest jump since its inception in 2009.

However, rival did see stronger performance for the 11.11 shopping extravaganza which really isn’t about singles at all, ringing up $54.6 billion in sales, a 28% increase over 2020.

By comparison, Amazon’s Prime Day, held in June, recorded $11 billion in sales, up 6.1% from 2020. It, too, didn’t deliver as expected based on blowouts in past years.

Singles Day figures are reported in terms of gross merchandise volume (GMV), which some analysts consider somewhat suspect, based on the total value of orders flowing through Alipay on Alibaba’s  Kaola, Lazada, AliExpress and New Retail marketplaces.

There wasn’t the usual flash and buzz leading up to and during Singles Day as in past years, with star-studded broadcasts reminiscent of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon. One analyst from Yahoo Finance described an Alibaba event in New York as “subdued.”

Chinese businesses have faced regulatory crackdown, including Alibaba itself paying a $2.8 billion antitrust fine this past April as founder Jack Ma lowered his profile after protesting the scrutiny.

Against this backdrop, the company played up sustainable metrics for this year’s shopping event. It said all its systems and operations had migrated to the public cloud, and use of renewable energy in the Zhangbei County data center that powers the festival reduced over 26,000 tons of carbon emission.

Also, Alibaba touted the fact that 500,000 products with “Green Product Certification,” from more than 2,000 merchants, were on display in an eco-conscious themed corner of Tmall.

Lastly, the Chinese ecommerce giant said more than 1 million packages were delivered by 350 of its Xiaomanlv driverless vehicles between Nov. 1-10.

Alibaba said a record 290,000 brands participated in Singles Day 2022, 65% of them small and medium-sized businesses, manufacturers from “industrial belts” and new brands.