Alibaba goes international to hit new Singles’ Day record
Shopfest this Sunday will be Jack Ma’s last as chairman
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is looking beyond borders to turn its annual Singles’ Day shopping celebration into a global phenomenon.
This Sunday, the Chinese internet giant is including sales from Lazada, the online shopping mall it controls. South-East Asia’ biggest web retailer is becoming a key part of Alibaba’s plan to fuel growth, on top of the company’s efforts to move into shopping malls, convenience stores and food delivery. The challenge for billionaire Jack Ma’s online empire is to break another sales transaction record after a decade of exceeding prior results. With a brewing trade war, a cooling economy and rising competition from smaller platforms such as JD.com Inc. and Pinduoduo Inc., Alibaba is seeking to add new growth engines. The retail celebration on November 11 dedicated to the nation’s unattached has become an important bellwether not just for the company, but also the world’s number 2 economy.
“Singles’ Day has now become a stage for Alibaba to showcase its capabilities across all its platforms,” Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer, said at an October news conference in Beijing. He’s taking over after Ma steps down as executive chairman next year.
It was Zhang who came up with the idea of turning Singles’ Day into a shopfest a decade ago. Now that this year’s oneday bazaar will be Ma’s last as chairman, Zhang will need to prove he can carry on the legacy. Alibaba has been able to post breakneck growth for almost a decade, including a 39 percent jump in sales last year to 168 billion yuan ($24.2 billion).
Still, there’s some uncertainty this year, due to a slowing economy, real estate deflation and trade tensions with the US that could impact on Chinese consumption. The weaker economy and rising household debt have, to some extent, dampened consumers’ confidence in China.
Online retail sales growth slowed to 24 per cent, down 12 percentage points in the second quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Policy makers have made a slew of changes, including reductions in income tax and tariffs on goods. That indicates spending may pick up in coming months; the earliest proof could come from data during Singles’ Day.
South-east Asia will give the clearest indication of Alibaba’s ability to go international. With Singapore-based Lazada now fully under its wing, the region remains one of the company’s relative bright spots.