China embraces online spending spree for singletons


Tue, Nov 12, 2013 - Page 15

Chinese shoppers spent billions of dollars online yesterday, data showed, as they took advantage of discounts offered on Singles Day, a festival created by e-tailers to persuade the loveless to console themselves with retail therapy.

Nov. 11 — or 11.11 — was proclaimed as “singles’ day,” because of the number of ones in the date, with sellers promoting discounts to the nation’s singletons.

“Male and female singles are no longer depressed now because all their attention is focused on the Internet to buy stuff,” said one skeptical poster on Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo. “But afterward they will realize their problems have not been resolved.”

China has the world’s biggest online population and its annual online sales are forecast to reach between US$420 billion and US$650 billion by 2020, by which time it will be the world’s largest online retail market, consulting firm McKinsey estimates.

Sales on Tmall (天貓), the business-to-consumer platform of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba (阿里巴巴), hit 19.1 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion) by 1pm, figures from the company showed.

That was about six times the combined average daily turnover on both Tmall and Taobao (淘寶), Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer arm, last year, according to Chinese media reports.

The US$3.1 billion figure was the same as the total for the whole day last year, Alibaba said in a statement.

Chinese bricks and mortar retailers are also trying to cash in on the spending spree this year, with department stores and supermarkets offering special prices over the weekend, Chinese media reports said.

However, there were doubts over the size of the event’s heavily-advertised discounts, with consumer research groups saying retailers quietly raise prices before announcing a dramatic markdown, the state-run Global Times said yesterday.

By the end of last year, China had 242 million online shoppers, up 24.8 percent in a year. They spent nearly 1.26 trillion yuan last year, up 66.5 percent from 2011, the semi-official China Internet Network Information Center said in an report in April.