With Less Excitement Around Singles’ Day, Alibaba and JD.com Keep Sales Results Under Wraps

SHANGHAI — For the first time in 14 years, neither Alibaba nor JD.com released sales data, or gross merchandise volume, for Singles’ Day, the most important online shopping festival in China.

Alibaba revealed that this year’s GMV results “stayed in line” with last year’s performance “despite macro challenges and COVID-related impact.” JD.com said sales “surpassed industry growth rate” and “set new records.”

On Nov. 11, the actual day of Singles’ Day, China rolled out plans toward relaxing the stringent COVID-19-related measures, which stirred much excitement among Chinese netizens, who called the easing package “the biggest deal” of this year’s Singles’ Day. But the excitement did not promptly translate into sales, as prolonged COVID-related impact and weak economic outlooks continued to erode consumer enthusiasm.

China recorded GDP growth of 3.9% in the third-quarter, while retail sales grew 2.5% year-over-year in September, lower than August’s 5.4%.

Bain & Co. predicted in October that more than 34% of shoppers planned to decrease spending for this year’s Singles’ Day. According to local data agency Cluster, total transaction volume on traditional marketplace platforms such as Tmall, JD.com and Pinduoduo increased merely 2.9% year-over-year to 934 billion renminbi, or $132 billion.

An increasingly crowded shopping festival calendar also had a numbing effect on consumer excitement. The “Double 12” shopping festival will begin in early December, followed by Chinese New Year Shopping festival in early January.

“Every shopping festival is getting stretched and stretched. Singles’ Day is now a Singles’ Week or a Singles’ Month, so the importance of each shopping festival has begun to dilute,” said Elena Gatti, managing director at Azoya Europe.

Despite challenging economic prospects, Gatti thinks fashion-related segments will remain relatively strong. “The consumer, especially someone very young, will always want to buy something new, niche and bold,” said Gatti. Local fashion retailer Looknow recorded a 228% increase in sales on Tmall. Sales at Chinese lingerie brand Neiwai broke the 100 million renminbi mark, recording double-digit growth on Tmall compared to the same time last year.

“The brands performing well have strong capital-backing, so they can keep on investing. That’s the reality of the Chinese market today: brands not only have to invest in Tmall, but they also have to be on Xiaohongshu, Douyin and Wechat. Merchants must be able to take this long breath, and at the very end, you will get your return on investment,” Gatti said.

Gatti also noticed that more brands had entered the livestreaming ecosystem during this year’s Singles’ Day.

On Nov. 7, Austin Li, Tmall’s livestreaming superstar, hosted a session that featured brands like Vacheron Constantin, Chopard, Prada, Maison Margiela, Maxmara, Chloé, We11done and Ami. The livestream garnered more than 10 million views; a Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix self-winding steel men’s style received 11 orders, and a limited-editon China exclusive Vacheron Constantin Égérie received one reservation.

“It was more of an image-building exercise,” said Gatti. “Even Austin Li’s voice seemed calmer. He was not shouting about the bargains like before.

“Luxury brands are beginning to embrace livestreaming, which is still a very difficult relationship,” Gatti added.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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