Singles' Day promotions draw in shoppers

Updated: 2012-11-12 07:58

By Chen Limin in Hangzhou (China Daily)

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Singles' Day promotions draw in shoppers

Singles' Day promotions draw in shoppers 

Husbands kiss their wives at a group wedding in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China, on Sunday. Mo Xiao / for China Daily

Nicholas Qiu, a salesman in Qingdao, Shandong province, does not usually count himself as a diehard online shopper, but he was on Sunday.

The 33-year-old stayed up until 2 am, trawling the Internet to buy clothes being sold at half-price before they could be snapped up by other shoppers. He ended up spending more than 4,300 yuan ($690) for three overcoats and a set of cutting tools.

Many of his friends were even "crazier", he said. Tens of millions of Internet users like Qiu took advantage of the half-price promotion, initiated by the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on Sunday, Nov 11, which is known as Singles' Day in China, and is the Chinese answer to Cyber Monday in the United States.

By 7 pm on Sunday, 14.1 billion yuan of transactions were made on Tmall and Taobao, the two online shopping websites of Alibaba.

That could make Singles' Day the biggest e-commerce sales day on record. The research company comScore said US online retailers saw $1.25 billion of sales during last year's Cyber Monday, the day after Thanksgiving weekend and the busiest day for online retailers as US shoppers start to prepare for Christmas.

Singles' Day originated with university students, and was later adopted by e-commerce companies as a promotional opportunity.

The name Singles' Day is inspired by the date - Nov 11. When the date is written numerically, the singular digits are said to represent single people.

E-commerce companies, including Jingdong Mall and Amazon China, also took part in the promotion.

"In the past, people only shopped online occasionally, but now, online shopping is a lifestyle embraced by many," said Zhang Yong, Tmall president.

In the first 30 minutes of the promotion, 930 million yuan worth of sales were made by Taobao and Tmall - more than the total retail sales in Hong Kong per day in August. In less than 14 hours, the sales hit 10 billion yuan, exceeding what Cyber Monday registered last year.

Alibaba began to hold Singles' Day promotions in 2009, and last year, its transactions totaled 5.2 billion yuan.

"I don't know whether we would lose money, but I don't think we could earn much on this day by selling goods at half price," said Hao Hongfeng, chairman of Beijing Jiuxian E-Commerce, a liquor retailer in Beijing who took part in the event.

He said it is a good opportunity for online vendors to get their name known.

Online retail sales accounted for 4.32 percent of total sales in China last year, up from 1.16 percent in 2008, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

While the promotion helped increase the number of online shoppers in China, there were also complaints about flaws in the online system, which was placed under strain due to a surge in use.

"I tried to pay for the clothes I chose on Sunday, but failed. There were too many people waiting to pay," said Qiu, the salesman, adding that the clothes sold out while he waited to pay.

After worrying about buying an ideal overcoat: "I am worrying whether my parcel will arrive in time," he said.

(China Daily 11/12/2012 page3)