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Alibaba president says record Singles' Day shows 'phenomenally strong’ Chinese consumer

Max Zahn with Andy Serwer
·3 min read

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) on Wednesday posted record sales for its annual Singles’ Day, topping $74 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV), the company said.

The Singles’ Day performance shows “phenomenally strong” Chinese consumption as the country moves beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. He acknowledged that the boost in sales owed in part to the expanded length of the event, which lasted 11 days instead of 24 hours.

“We’re in a post-pandemic market in China where consumption levels are phenomenally strong,” he says. “This is a demonstrated example of the huge power of the Chinese consumer to buy brands in China and from all over the world.”

Nearly every product category at Alibaba has returned to pre-COVID levels, Evans told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on Yahoo Finance Live.

Alibaba Group's Taobao and Tmall president Jiang Fan speaks at Alibaba Group's Singles' Day global shopping festival at a media center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
Alibaba Group's Taobao and Tmall president Jiang Fan speaks at Alibaba Group's Singles' Day global shopping festival at a media center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

China’s economy expanded 4.9% over the July-to-September quarter, a sign of rejuvenation as the country contained COVID-19 but still a number that missed growth forecasts. Retail sales increased just .9% year-over-year in the third quarter, but were up 3.3% in September from the same month last year. The country said that the sales of online retail goods were up 15.3% in the third quarter.

A different Singles’ Day this year

The Singles’ Day sales far outpace the $38.7 billion of GMV Alibaba made last year, Evans said, in part due to the extended duration of the event this time around. Singles Day, typically a 24-hour Chinese shopping event that takes place each year on November 11, began with discounts this year starting on Nov. 1.

“This year we decided to do something different,” Evans says. “Merchants, particularly in China, needed more time to prepare and to get ready to profile their new products and new innovations. And consumers we felt would need more time also to browse and see what products they wanted to select.”

The company also sought to “take pressure off” of the delivery chain, which will need to deliver 2.25 billion packages as a result of Singles’ Day, he said.

Alibaba Group President Michael Evans appears on Wednesday on Yahoo Finance Live.
Alibaba Group President Michael Evans appears on Wednesday on Yahoo Finance Live.

Despite early signs of a strong Singles’ Day, Alibaba shares fell 8.3% on Tuesday on the news that China put out new draft antimonopoly rules for its tech giants. As of Wednesday afternoon, the stock had risen slightly in that day’s trading.

The more aggressive regulatory posture from the Chinese government toward internet firms follows a an intervention from the Chinese government last Tuesday, when it halted the IPO of Ant Group, a financial technology giant in which Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is the controlling stakeholder.

The U.S. remains mired in its worst wave of the COVID pandemic and has seen its retail recovery slow in recent months. U.S. consumer spending rose 1.4% in September, the fifth straight month of gains but a more modest jump than the sharp increases earlier in the year.

U.S. brands got a boost from Singles’ Day, too, Evans said. U.S. merchants led all non-China brands in sales on Singles Day, totaling more than $5 billion.

“This is an extraordinary result for the U.S.,” he says. “Most of these brands, and there were thousands of them in the U.S., understand that a part of the future growth of their companies is going to be the China consumer.”

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