Buy­ing into a Sin­gles Day boom

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS - SA­MAN­THA WOODHILL ELI GREENBLAT

For Jas­mine Zhuang, who came to Aus­tralia from Shang­hai as a high school stu­dent seven years ago, it’s a mod­ern twist on the more tra­di­tional act of courtship as flirt­ing and stolen glances are re­placed by click­ing a mouse.

She said that although Sin­gles Day was in­tended as a day to cel­e­brate sin­gle peo­ple, as a sort of Valen­tine’s Day al­ter­na­tive, Chi­nese girls in re­la­tion­ships also get in­volved in the sales.

Girls add items to their on­line bas­kets lead­ing up to the event. Boyfriends will then log in to their ac­counts and empty their bas­kets when the items are dis­counted on Sin­gles Day, she said.

“It’s a way for Chi­nese boys to show how much they like their girl,” Ms Zhuang, 22, said. “It was orig­i­nally a day for sin­gles to cel­e­brate. Now it’s for ev­ery­one.”

It started as an ob­scure anti-Valen­tine’s Day hol­i­day on uni- ver­sity cam­puses in China, where sin­gles cel­e­brated not be­ing part of a cou­ple by buy­ing them­selves a present, and has quickly mush­roomed to a shop­ping frenzy that last year gen­er­ated nearly $US18 bil­lion in sales for Alibaba’s on­line shop­ping mall.

And Sin­gles Day, set to kick off today, is prov­ing a boon for Aus­tralian re­tail­ers as they ride a wave of huge pop­u­lar de­mand for Aus­tralian-made prod­ucts, es­pe­cially in the beauty, cos­met­ics and health­care cat­e­gories, where the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion for clean and green goods is highly as­pi­ra­tional for Chi­nese shop­pers.

Chemist Ware­house was a star of the show for Alibaba last year by re­port­ing 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.95bn) in sales in the first 13 min­utes of Sin­gles Day — a sales bench­mark it took 46 min­utes to hit for Sin­gles Day in 2015.

Chemist Ware­house went on to be­come the first Alibaba Tmall Global store to sur­pass 100 mil­lion yuan in sales and is part of a pack of Aus­tralian brands such as Jean­swest, UGG, Swisse and Black­mores to hit the big time on Sin­gles Day.

No prod­uct is too ob­scure to grab the at­ten­tion of Chi­nese shop­pers. The ASX-listed Abun­dant Pro­duce was cel­e­brat­ing the news this week that its tomato in­fu­sion daily face cream had been added to the Tmall Global “must buy” prod­uct list just be­fore Sin­gles Day. It says its “live face cream shows” have al­ready had 20 mil­lion views.

A quick glance of the sheer enor­mity of Sin­gles Day for Alibaba un­der­lines why so many Aus­tralian re­tail­ers are ea­ger to cash in on the fes­ti­val.

Sales turnover last year hit $US17.8bi — in just 24 hours — with Alibaba Cloud pro­cess­ing 175,000 or­ders a sec­ond and its pay­ment sys­tem, Ali­pay, pro­cess­ing more than a bil­lion pay­ments in to­tal, or 120,000 trans­ac­tions a sec­ond at the peak of the buy­ing frenzy.

Ms Zhuang, who prefers to shop in store rather than on­line, said even she is tempted by heav­ily dis­counted prod­ucts and speedy de­liv­ery of­fered by re­tail­ers on Sin­gles Day.

“Things are a lot cheaper, maybe half price, and all very good qual­ity,” she said. “When you buy from US stores, it takes at least a week. But for Sin­gles Day, it will be much faster; it could take only three days or so.”

Ron Tong, chief ex­ec­u­tive for sports­wear brand Lorna Jane Asia, said this would be the sec­ond year the re­tailer has par­tic­i­pated in Sin­gles Day. While 2016 was very strong, the com­pany ex­pects to see a 300 to 400 per cent rise in sales this week­end.

“Last year went re­ally well, we had only been on Tmall for, I think, two months ... to­tally dif­fer­ent to this year where we have been on Tmall as a flag­ship store for 14 months now and we have a team based in Shang­hai,’’ Mr Tong said.

The big­gest sell­ing item for Lorna Jane on Sin­gles Day is sports bras, fol­lowed by run­ning and yoga tights.

JOHN FEDER

Jas­mine Zhuang, in Syd­ney’s Hyde Park, gets ready for the on­line Chi­nese shop­ping frenzy that is Sin­gles Day

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