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Half a billion shoppers expected to participate in Singles Day 2019 — here’s what you need to know

Half a billion shoppers expected to participate in Singles Day 2019 — here’s what you need to know

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Posted

November 10, 2019 06:05:17

It’s the world’s largest single-day sale.

Key points:

  • Double 11, or Singles Day, dwarfs all other online sales events worldwide
  • The ongoing trade war could see Chinese consumers avoid US products
  • Australian products are expected to be in hot demand during the event

Held annually on the 11th of November, China’s so-called 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is now larger than US equivalents Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. This is its 11th year.

It was originally known as Singles Day because 11.11 resembles four “single sticks” — a Chinese term used to refer to bachelors.

While the obscure tradition of Bachelors Day began in 1993 at Nanjing University in Beijing, e-commerce behemoth Alibaba turned it into a shopping festival in 2009 on its Taobao website.

Double 11 is now marked across all of China’s major e-commerce platforms including Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao, and their competitor JD.com.

2019 expected to be the biggest year yet

Festival shoppers typically stack their carts during the evening on November 10, and begin checking out as the clock strikes midnight.

However presales are also an option — and if they’re any indication, this year could see the biggest sales day yet.

Chinese state media reported this week that 64 brands had already sold more than $20 million worth of goods in presales each.

Last year’s event smashed previous records, seeing $2 billion worth of purchases in the first two minutes, and total sales of $42.5 billion over the 24-hour period.

Alibaba expects 500 million consumers will participate this year, a whopping 100 million more than last year. Experts say it’s a potent sign of the growing affluence across China.

Clothing, beauty products and lifestyle electronics like mobile phones are generally the most popular items.

Fresh food is also on offer. JD claims that 300,000 eggs were sold in the first half-hour of last year’s event.

Property developers will also be seeking to flog real estate on Singles Day, with thousands of heavily discounted homes on sale in 2019.

Some people have been known to get carried away with the excitement.

One punter on social media last year said he had woken up in a drunken haze to discover he’d purchased a discounted pig, giant salamander and peacock.

Australian businesses will cash in

Australia has consistently appeared among the top five source countries for goods bought by 11.11 shoppers, alongside Japan, the United States and South Korea.

“China is a major market for all industries in Australia,” said Hans Hendrischke, a professor of Chinese business at the University of Sydney, arguing that other industries are often overshadowed by the resources sector.

“[But] 40 per cent of Australia’s agricultural exports go to China,” he said.

Purchases of Australian lamb rose by an astounding 775 per cent in the first hour of last year’s sales compared with 2017.

Australian supplements, cosmetics and baby products are among the most in-demand products for import to China during Singles Day.

The ASX-listed vitamin company Swisse was China’s most imported brand in 2018. Its competitor Bio Island came in fifth overall.

“Chinese consumers want to buy what Australia excels in producing,” Professor James Laurenceson, head of the Australia-China Relations Institute, told the ABC.

Such is the demand for Australian products, Singles Day was blamed for creating a shortage of baby formula in Australian supermarkets in 2015.

Trade war, Hong Kong unrest may impact sales

Australian brands could also reap benefits from the trade war between Washington and Beijing during this year’s sales.

“Because of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Australian wine now enters China tariff free,” Mr Laurenceson told the ABC.

“In contrast, Californian wine gets hit with a tariff of more than 50 per cent, up from 14 per cent before the trade war began.”

A survey by consulting firm AlixPartners recently found that 8 in 10 respondents said they thought the US-China trade war could impact their spending patterns on Singles Day.

More than half cited “national loyalty” as the main reason for not buying American brands.

“US brands can expect some disruption because of the consequences of the US-China trade war on consumer sentiment,” the report concluded.

Mr Hendrischke said, however, that “boycotts don’t necessarily translate into practice.”

“If [Chinese consumers] have a choice between Nike sneakers and some other thing, they’ll probably still go for Nike.”

Many shoppers in Hong Kong, meanwhile, may boycott the sale altogether, amid anti-Beijing protests that have now lasted more than five months.

Last year, Hong Kong was the largest destination outside mainland China for Singles Day purchases alongside Russia and the US.

But Hong Kong protesters have now taken to vandalising local businesses owned by Communist Party-affiliated entities, or those perceived to be pro-Beijing.

State media tabloid the Global Times reported some protesters in Hong Kong were considering a boycott of Alibaba, citing social media posts.

Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma is a member of the ruling Communist Party.

The newspaper dismissed a potential boycott as “ridiculous and unrealistic”.

‘A digital Belt and Road’

Celebrations will go off on the mainland, however.

“For the past 10 years, I have been stationed at our command centre … at the most intense moment, just before clock strikes midnight, I would take the stage to count down to the start of the event,” Alibaba chairman Daniel Zhang, who recently replaced Mr Ma, said in a statement.

“This year my most important responsibility is to shop and be a consumer.”

Taylor Swift may have cancelled her appearance at the Melbourne Cup, but won’t miss the opportunity to headline Alibaba’s televised countdown event for 11.11 in Shanghai.

Previous years’ events have featured stars like Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, Mariah Carey and Pharrell Williams.

The real show is pulled off behind the scenes, however. The scale of the sales makes its execution an immense technological and logistical feat.

“China is bringing these technologies to scale that we don’t really see anywhere else,” Mr Hendrischke said, referring to the use of big data to ensure demand can be met, and that products are delivered quickly.

“Once we see these technologies perfected they would be transferable to other markets,” he added.

Mr Zhang told an event in Shanghai this week that massive merchandise volume was no longer Alibaba’s primary aim.

“Rather we are looking at strengthening data capabilities, cloud computing power, and logistics networks to weave a digital ‘Belt and Road’ for the welfare of more people,” he said.

Topics:

business-economics-and-finance,

popular-culture,

community-and-society,

internet-culture,

china,

australia,

asia








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