The Chinese holiday known as Singles’ Day began two decades ago when University students dedicated November 11 to the celebration of the romantically-unattached life. Six years ago, Chinese retailers began presenting the day as an excuse to spoil oneself. Consumers were offered deep discounts on everything from novelty pillows, clothing, exotic wines, to luxury cars.
Today, Single’s Day sales dwarf the combined numbers of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The primary benefactor of Singles’ Day is the e-commerce giant, Alibaba (NYSE:BABA).
The company has the financial support of Chinese mobile company, Tencent and Kingdom holding, an investment firm belonging to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. A 2005 partnership with Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) allowed Alibaba to acquire China Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com.cn).
Last year, Alibaba took in $9.3 billion on Singles Day alone after shipping nearly 280 million
orders. The American economy is only expected to have an influx of $5.8 million from consumer spending this Black Friday.
In 1999, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma established the site to allow manufacturers to link with buyers. Today, consumers argue that Alibaba will be the online retailer that puts an end to Amazon’s reign over e-commerce markets. While the claim is premature, the numbers do lend it credence.
In 2013, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) pulled in $74.45 billion in revenue—nearly ten times more than Alibaba. During the fourth quarter of 2013, however, Amazon only managed 0.97 percent margins, compared to the 50 percent margins of Alibaba.
The vast majority of Single’s Day transactions take place on the internet; the major players are Chinese-language sites that deliver within the People’s Republic. Nevertheless, American companies have been looking to infiltrate the market. Retailers Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s (NYSE:M), among others, have decided to offer their own Single’s Day sales.
“American firms will have to sacrifice margin since Chinese shoppers expect extremely low prices as they seek out the best deals,” warns Joel Backaler, director of Frontier Strategy Group, a Washington advisory firm focused on market analysis.
According to estimates consumers spent $5 billion with Alibaba in the first 90 minutes ($1 billion in the first 8 minutes) of Single’s Day 2015. (China is about 12 hours ahead of EST.) The early returns indicate that the sales day surpassed $10 billion, breaking last year’s record. Some are reporting figures as high as $14 billion or more. Of those sales, 80 percent came from Alibaba’s mobile sites.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.