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November 12, 2013

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Online shopping splurge one for the record books

Chinese shoppers spent billions online yesterday as they took advantage of discounts offered on Single’s Day, a festival seized on by online retailers to increase sales.

November 11 was proclaimed Single’s Day because of the number of ones in the date and first appeared on student campuses, with young single people celebrating the day by eating together, sending gifts or going shopping.

Now a massive shopping extravaganza, it took just 13 hours for sales on just two online sites, Taobao and Tmall, to fly past last year’s overall total of 19.1 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion).

Yesterday’s final figure reached an astonishing 35.02 billion yuan as hundreds of thousands of consumers rushed to buy clothes, furniture, home decoration items at discount prices.

A common greeting among friends and colleagues yesterday was “Bought anything today?” as they exchanged tales of bargains or disappointing news of popular items sold out minutes after the spree began at midnight.

In under nine hours, turnover at the Alibaba Group’s Tmall and Taobao sites had exceeded that of last year’s Cyber Monday, a similar event in the United States.

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States, recorded US$1.4 billion in sales on November 26 last year.

There were a few glitches at Alibaba’s payment unit in the first 10 minutes of yesterday’s shopping spree with some orders declined and customers having to refresh webpages and repeat the payment process to secure purchases.

Round trip to Sydney

Jenny Dong, a Shanghai office worker, was one of the lucky shoppers as she grabbed a round-trip ticket to Sydney for 4,700 yuan, a 30 percent discount on the normal price.

“The price was so attractive as I’ve been longing for a vacation to Australia and I was so excited to successfully put the order the very second after midnight,” she said.

Sherry Chen, a postgraduate student, was among the many consumers delighted to pick up a bargain online. Chen said she got a pair of boots on Tmall at 40 percent of the department store price.

“I don’t care if it’s November 11 or December 12. As long as they have sales promotions, I’m more than happy to participate,” she said.

The line between online and offline retailers is gradually blurring, said Jason Yu, general manager of market research firm Kantar Worldpanel China.

“The offline retail presence of apparel vendors such as Uniqlo is an indispensable part of the massive amount of sales of its online unit, and retailers need to create a multi-channel shopping experience for consumers,” Yu said.

A Kantar Worldpanel study showed that up to a third of consumers are spending their money online this year instead of in traditional stores, Yu said.

The study found that of 1.1 trillion yuan in sales of fast moving consumer goods in the 52 weeks to September 6 this year, expenditure through e-commerce channels jumped 45 percent from a year earlier, much faster than the 9 percent annual growth in hypermarkets and supermarket chains.

In an online survey by CTR Market Research Co of 7,117 web users last week, 73 percent said they would buy from online vendors this year and spend an average of 1,078 yuan, 68 yuan more than last year.

In the past 12 months, online shoppers spent an average of 4,185 yuan, according to media investment firm GroupM.

The survey of 19,400 respondents in 279 cities across China reported a sharp rise in online expenditure among third and fourth tier cities with residents spending 31.8 percent more than the previous year, or 3,768 yuan each. The average amount spent by first and second tier city residents was 4,378 yuan.

Biggest transaction

Privately-owned smartphone maker Xiaomi Technology recorded the biggest transaction size of all Tmall vendors this year with sales amounting to 553 million yuan after it sold 110,000 Xiaomi 3 models in less than three minutes along with other models and smart TV sets.

It was also the first company on Tmall to break the 100 million yuan threshold.

Alibaba was the first company to seize Single’s Day as an opportunity to woo consumers, but e-commerce sites, including 360Buy, and, also did big business.

51Buy, the online shopping arm of Internet company Tencent, estimated that both home appliance and electronic compliances  transaction size yesterday would surpass 100 million yuan. 

Shanghai-based general merchandise vendor, in which Walmart holds a controlling stake, said sales in the first hour yesterday were 11 times those of a week ago.

“We hope other e-commerce sites also did a good job as we want Single’s Day to be a holiday for consumers and good chance for retailers to discover the unmet needs of shoppers,” Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, told reporters.

“It’s not a difficult thing to bring our total transaction size to 100 billion yuan in a couple of years but we hope to do more to help vendors and manufacturers to upgrade their products and service to reach more clients,” Ma said at a news briefing.

At the end of last year, China had 242 million online shoppers on the mainland, 24.8 percent more than the year before. They spent nearly 1.26 trillion yuan in 2012, up 66.5 percent from 2011, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

How sales added up

55 seconds: 100 million yuan (US$16.4 million)

6 mins, 7 secs: 1 billion

8 hours, 42 mins: 12.1 billion (more than 2012’s Cyber Monday)

13 hrs, 4 mins: 19.1 billion (equal to last year’s 24-hour total sales)

13 hrs 39 mins: 20 billion

21 hrs 20 mins: 30 billion

24 hrs: 35.02 billion yuan



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