Chi­nese shop­pers spend bil­lions online on Sin­gles Day

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Joe McDon­ald AP Busi­ness Writer

BEI­JING >> In a bright spot for China’s cool­ing econ­omy, online shop­pers spent bil­lions of dol­lars Fri­day on “Sin­gles Day,” a quirky hol­i­day that has grown into the world’s busiest day for e-com­merce.

The coun­try’s big­gest ecom­merce brand, Alibaba Group, said sales by the thou­sands of re­tail­ers on its plat­forms passed 91.2 bil­lion yuan ($13.4 bil­lion) in the first 15 hours of the event. That is four times the $3 bil­lion re­search firm comS­core says Amer­i­cans spent in to­tal last year on Cy­ber Mon­day, the coun­try’s big­gest online shop­ping day.

Ri­vals in­clud­ing JD.com, VIP.com and Sun­ing of­fered deep dis­counts on cloth­ing, smart­phones, travel pack­ages and other goods to at­tract shop­pers.

JD.com, the coun­try’s big­gest online di­rect re­tailer and Alibaba’s top ri­val, said it tested de­liv­ery by drone to cus­tomers in four ru­ral ar­eas in what the com­pany be­lieved to be the first com­mer­cial use of such ser­vice. The com­pany said its sales passed last year’s Sin­gles Day to­tal at 1:33 p.m. but gave no fi­nan­cial amount.

Sin­gles Day was be­gun by Chi­nese col­lege stu­dents in the 1990s as a ver­sion of Valen­tine’s Day for peo­ple with­out ro­man­tic part­ners.

The Nov. 11 date was picked to be “11.11” — four sin­gles. Young peo­ple would treat each other to din­ner or give gifts to woo that spe­cial some­one and end their sin­gle sta­tus.

The spend­ing gives a boost to the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s ef­forts to nurture con­sumer-based economic growth and re­duce re­liance on trade and in­vest­ment.

E-com­merce sales in China rose by 26.1 per­cent in the first nine months of the year. Economic growth for that pe­riod held steady at 6.7 per­cent, but that was its low­est level since the 2008 global cri­sis.

Fore­cast­ers ex­pect the econ­omy to cool fur­ther next year as regulators try to rein in a boom in bank lend­ing and real es­tate sales that is push­ing up debt lev­els and hous­ing costs.

China has the big­gest pop­u­la­tion of In­ter­net users at 710 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data. Some 410 mil­lion peo­ple shop online for goods rang­ing from cloth­ing and gro­ceries to man­i­cures and plane tick­ets.

“Online shop­ping is get­ting more and more com­mon,” said He Mei, an em­ployee of a health prod­ucts com­pany in her 30s who had waited for Fri­day to buy an in­door air fil­ter­ing ma­chine at a dis­count.

“Young guys, es­pe­cially those in their 20s, don’t re­ally go out to buy things, and they buy pretty much ev­ery­thing online,” she said. “It’s so easy and it saves time and money.”

The mi­gra­tion of Chi­nese con­sumers to online com­merce and en­ter­tain­ment is squeez­ing tra­di­tional re­tail­ers, cin­e­mas and other busi­nesses, forc­ing them to im­prove ser­vice and add of­fer­ings. E-com­merce has risen from 3 per­cent of Chi­nese con­sumer spend­ing in 2010 to 15 per­cent last year, ac­cord­ing to Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group. It fore­casts online spend­ing will rise by 20 per­cent a year, hit­ting $1.6 tril­lion by 2020, com­pared with 6 per­cent growth for off-line re­tail.

Re­searchers at­tribute the rapid rise of Sin­gles Day to de­mo­graph­ics and tim­ing.

Univer­sity grad­u­ates who adopted the hol­i­day earn more and shop online. Also, Sin­gles Day comes as peo­ple re­ceive monthly pay­checks and need to buy win­ter clothes.

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