Singles Day: Alibaba posts record sales but growth is slowing

But its momentum is severely slowing down as China’s economic system weakens and as Beijing has tightened its grip on the tech business.

Alibaba mentioned that complete gross merchandise quantity (GMV) reached 540.3 billion yuan ($84.5 billion) by means of the primary 11 days of November, culminating within the vacation on Thursday. That’s a rise of 8.5% from a yr in the past — far decrease than the highest finish of a forecast lately given by analysts at Citi, who anticipated as a lot as a 15% enhance, or 578 billion yuan ($90 billion). It’s additionally under the low finish of that analyst forecast, some $86 billion.

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This yr’s determine is a giant slowdown from the 26% soar Alibaba posted final yr, in comparison with 2019.

The Citi analysts wrote Friday that whereas this yr’s numbers had been worse than they predicted, “it was not entirely unexpected” given powerful competitors, a slowing economic system and softening client sentiment.

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Smaller rival (JD) fared higher, recording 349.1 billion yuan ($54.6 billion) in sales by GMV. That was up 28.6% from a yr in the past — although nonetheless slower than the 33% growth fee it hit final yr.

Inflation complications

Alibaba (BABA) launched the primary Singles Day Shopping Festival on November 11, 2009. The occasion, which is often known as Double 11, is pegged to China’s casual, anti-Valentine’s Day vacation that celebrates individuals who aren’t in relationships. The date — 11.11 — was chosen as a result of it is written as 4 ones, or singles.

Since that first prevalence, Singles Day has ballooned right into a procuring frenzy noticed not simply by Alibaba, but additionally by different e-commerce corporations that supply their very own steep reductions and promotions. Deals happen over a number of days and even weeks. It has additionally unfold exterior of China, with Alibaba’s Southeast Asia subsidiary Lazada providing offers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

It’s an extremely profitable occasion, but client sentiment could also be taking a success this yr due to headwinds dealing with China’s economic system.

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GDP is rising on the slowest tempo in a yr as vitality woes, transport disruptions and a deepening property disaster take their toll on the world’s second largest economic system.
Inflation, in the meantime, has risen, which threatens to erode revenue margins and the buying energy held by customers.

The price of products leaving China’s factories surged by one other record fee final month — China’s Producer Price Index jumped 13.5% in October from a yr in the past — and there at the moment are indicators that the upper prices are trickling down. China’s Consumer Price Index rose 1.5% in October from a yr in the past, double the speed of the earlier month and the quickest tempo of enhance since September 2020.

“On the one hand, the soaring input costs have significantly squeezed the profit margin for downstream manufacturers, which in turn limits the space to offer a large discount this year,” mentioned Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, a French funding financial institution. “On the other, domestic consumption is not yet back to pre-pandemic level[s] and even online retail sales, which remained relatively resilient in 2020, have decelerated.”

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Crackdown woes

A sweeping authorities crackdown over personal enterprise additionally solid a shadow over this yr’s Singles Day.

Beijing final yr launched sweeping marketing campaign in opposition to a variety of industries, and e-commerce corporations have been below notably harsh scrutiny.

Alibaba was hit earlier this yr with a record $2.8 billion positive for behaving like a monopoly, and the corporate has shed a whole lot of billions of {dollars} in market worth as Beijing’s reforms take {shape}., Tencent, Pinduoduo, Meituan and different corporations have additionally been investigated or fined over alleged anti-competitive habits.

As strain grows, a variety of corporations have rushed to donate billions of {dollars} from their very own income to government-based social causes, after President Xi Jinping makes clear his precedence to redistribute wealth and obtain “common prosperity.”
Alibaba has pledged to donate 100 billion yuan ($15.6 billion) by 2025 in assist of Beijing’s “common prosperity” marketing campaign. Pinduoduo mentioned in August it might give its whole revenue for the June quarter to rural improvement initiatives in China, and anticipated to donate a complete of 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) towards such causes. unveiled a plan late final yr to “revitalize rural China” utilizing cash and its logistics infrastructure.
Singles Day has entered Beijing’s sights, too. On Saturday, the State Administration of Market Regulation — the nation’s anti-trust regulator — banned e-commerce platforms from taking part in unfair practices throughout the vacation procuring interval, comparable to “raising prices of items before putting them on sale.”
China's 'unprecedented' crackdown stunned private enterprise. One year on, it may have to cut business some slack
Last week, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which abroad the web business, summoned Alibaba,, Pinduoduo and Meituan and warned them in opposition to spamming customers with advertising messages throughout Singles Day.

“The big internet platforms appear to be more cautious in marketing and promotions this year to refrain from breaching the antitrust regulations,” mentioned García Herrero from Natixis.

Supporting Beijing

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Companies are additionally speeding to assist authorities initiatives supposed to spice up social equality or to cut back carbon emissions — each amongst Xi’s high coverage targets. Climate has been a specific focus, with China this week even pledging to ramp up its local weather ambitions in an settlement with the United States. (China, although, is nonetheless the world’s greatest coal client and earlier didn’t signal on to a press release at COP26 committing to phasing out the usage of coal.)

Alibaba mentioned they’d shift focus from pure sales figures — often annually’s headline — to sustainability and inclusiveness.

“This year’s Festival marks a new chapter for 11.11,” mentioned Chris Tung, chief advertising officer of Alibaba Group, in a press release. “We believe we must leverage the power of 11.11 to encourage sustainable development and promote inclusiveness to consumers, merchants, and partners across our ecosystem.”

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The firm mentioned it would showcase energy-efficient merchandise on its providers and provides out 100 million yuan ($15.6 million) value of “green” vouchers meant to encourage folks to purchase more sustainable merchandise. It additionally wished to cut back the occasion’s carbon footprint by recycling the packaging it makes use of.

The firm additionally mentioned it wished to assist “vulnerable populations,” and its Taobao app has launched a “senior mode” choice. The new characteristic is designed to be more accessible for the aged with an up to date interface and voice-assisted expertise. additionally introduced this yr’s Singles Day can be “the largest one where renewable energy is used, and one where [] will push for a reduced carbon footprint.”

CNN Business’ Paul R. La Monica contributed to this report.

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