China’s ‘Double 11’ shopping spree sees ‘record figures’ as consumption recovers
Staff members sort and unload packages at a big logistics company in Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province on October 19, 2023. Multiple local express companies have been stepping up efforts to prepare for the upcoming Double 11 online shopping carnival to be held on November 11. Photo: cnsphoto
After the annual "Double 11" shopping festival, said to be the world's largest, wrapped up at mid-night Saturday, China's State Post Bureau and some Chinese e-commerce giants reported "record numbers," while others are reporting "positive growth," underscoring Chinese consumers' strong spending power.
In its 15th year, the "Double 11" shopping festival, which is also known as Singles Day, has become a reliable barometer of consumer sentiment. While a final tally of sales was not immediately offered and consumer enthusiasm appeared relatively low compared to previous years, various highlights, including the rise of domestic brands, underline shifting trends in China's consumer market. At any rate, total sales, expected to see double-digit growth, underscores China's consumption recovery, analysts said.
While many e-commerce platforms stopped reporting gross merchandise value (GMV) for "Double 11" sales since last year, they offered various highlights of sales activities on their platforms on Sunday.
JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce giant, reported new records in various indicators. "JD.com's 11.11 transaction volume, order volume, and number of users all hit new highs," the company said in a report sent to the Global Times on Sunday. However, it did not provide specific numbers.
In another major indicator, China's State Post Bureau said on Sunday that China has set a new record by handling 639 million parcels on "Double 11" on Saturday, 1.87 times the volume on regular days and 15.76 percent higher than that of the same day last year. Between November 1 and Saturday, the volume increased 23.22 percent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, Alibaba Group, another Chinese e-commerce giant often credited with first launching the "Double 11" shopping festival 15 years ago, said on Sunday that its platforms, Taobao and Tmall, saw "positive growth" during the festival. "For the entire campaign period, Taobao and Tmall recorded positive year-on-year growth in GMV, order number, and participating merchants compared to the same period last year," the company said in a press release sent to the Global Times.
Various other Chinese online platforms, including livestream sites such as Kuaishou and Douyin, also reported strong sales figures. Douyin, TikTok's sister app in China, said its daily average GMV and order volume both increased by more than 50 percent, though it did not offer specific sales figures.
"Judging from the data that have been released for 'Double 11,' it seems that sales were quite robust, especially major growth in GMV for certain brands and some even saw new records," Li Changan, a professor from the Academy of China Open Economy Studies of the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that sales growth during the "Double 11" offers an important sign for consumption recovery.
A total tally of sales on all Chinese e-commerce platforms is usually not available, but various global consultancies often release estimates after the shopping festival concludes. Sales for last year's "Double 11" reached 1.15 trillion yuan ($157.97 billion), according to a recent report from US consultancy firm Bain. That figure is more than four times the $35.3 billion US shoppers spent during the Cyber Week - from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, according to Reuters.
For this year's "Double 11" sales, some global consultancies have made forecasts for a total GMV growth of between 14 percent and 18 percent, which would mean a return of double-digit sales growth for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reuters.
The figures that have been already reported and rosy forecasts made by global consultancies underlined strong consumer spending, even though some foreign media outlets claimed that "Double 11" has lost "its luster" amid downward pressure on the Chinese economy.
In China, discussions about "Double 11" both online and offline appears to have dialed down a bit compared to previous years, and many have opted not to participate due to the rise of other shopping festivals and platforms that offer year-round discounts. Nevertheless, some consumers continued to spend big on "Double 11" out of both necessity and big discounts.
"I spent about 40,000 yuan this year, mostly on big-ticket items like furniture and home appliances," a Beijing resident surnamed Li told the Global Times on Sunday. That's a big increase from "several thousands yuan" she spent last year. Li said that the discounts are relatively big, especially on bit-ticket items.
Another shopper surnamed Song also spent about 15,000 yuan on home appliances. "Although there are also discounts during normal times, the overall discounts on Double 11 are definitely bigger," Song said.
Tian Yun, an economist based in Beijing, said that "Double 11" sales "have actually been quite robust," which shows strong consumer spending power, China's industrial upgrade as well as various policies to support consumption. It shows "the economy is in a slow climbing stage after the pandemic and consumption is still in recovery," Tian told the Global Times on Saturday.
Chinese policymakers have taken a slew of measures this year to boost consumption as it has become the biggest driver of China's economic growth. In July, officials issued 20 measures to boost domestic consumption, including household spending on everything from homes to home appliances. Thanks to various factors, including policy support, China's consumption has been steadily rebounding. In the first nine months, China's total retail sales grew 6.8 percent year-on-year, with online sales surging 11.6 percent, according to official data.
"Since the beginning of the year, boosting consumption has become a top priority in the economic recovery. A series of supportive policies have been released and recent sales figures are effects of the policy supports," Li said.
Apart from providing signs for China's overall consumption market, highlights during the "Double 11" sales also offer crucial indicators for shifting trends among Chinese shoppers.
For instance, brand recognition becomes increasingly crucial for Chinese consumers. Alibaba said that a total of 402 brands saw their GMV surpassing 100 million yuan, of which 243 are Chinese brands. Meanwhile, 38,000 brands achieved over 100 percent year-on-year growth in GMV, the firm said. Livestreaming is also becoming a major venue for online sales. JD.com said that the total viewers of its livestream services exceeded 380 million.
While new ways of promoting spending are encouraged, various problems in the e-commerce industry, including illegal pricing and unfair competition, must also be addressed to ensure sustainable development, analysts noted. The State Administration for Market Regulation on Saturday issued a statement, warning against illegal activities.