China’s annual Singles Day online shopping bonanza brought in a record $38 billion in sales for Alibaba. The country’s biggest e-commerce company had already topped last year’s record 16 1/2 hours in, before it posted a final tally of 268.4 billion yuan ($38.4 billion) at the end of the day.
That’s an increase of about 25% over last year’s $30.8 billion, a slightly slower rate of growth than Alibaba (BABA) recorded in 2018, when the company reported a 27% uptick in Singles Day revenue. Analysts had warned of weaker growth this year given China’s slowing economy and the trade war with the United States. The event regularly racks up bigger sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
“Singles Day is being held up as a bellwether of Chinese consumers’ willingness to spend in the face of a domestic slowdown” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, in a note Monday. But “deeply discounting prices always brings consumers out to play, no matter how bad the economy might be,” he added.
“We continue to feel very confident about the growth potential of the economy,” Alibaba Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung told CNN in an interview. “We are pushing deeper towards the less developed areas of China, to reach more new online shoppers, so there’s a huge untapped opportunity there.”
Pre-sales, which kicked off three weeks ago, saw Estée Lauder (EL) rake in a record 1 billion yuan ($143 million) in pre-orders, Alibaba said on Sunday. Alibaba users also pre-ordered 100 million yuan ($14 million) worth of Apple (AAPL) iPhone 11s, the company said.
Singles Day is an informal, anti-Valentine’s Day holiday in China celebrating people who aren’t in relationships. Its date, November 11, was chosen because the date is written as four ones, or singles. Alibaba started offering Singles Day discounts in 2009 and has since turned the day into a 24-hour bonanza of online shopping in China.
Other Chinese e-commerce platforms like JD.com and regular brick-and-mortar stores also take part, and the event is starting to gain traction outside China. Alibaba’s Southeast Asia subsidiary Lazada offers Singles Day discounts in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Brands like Nike (NKE) and Brooks Brothers are offering Singles Day discounts on their websites in the United States.
But the Singles Day event in China is by far the splashiest. International companies flock to Alibaba’s celebrity-studded live telecast and its various online platforms, eager to hawk everything from liquor to sports cars. Taylor Swift closed out this year’s four-hour long show, performing three songs shortly before midnight.