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