The Chinese online shopping holiday known as Singles’ Day generated $38.23 billion in sales this weekend, up more than 43% from $26.64 billion last year, according to Chinese e-commerce research firm Syntun.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the Chinese e-commerce giant that turned the tongue-in-cheek student celebration of being single into an online sales event, accounted for 69.8% of Singles’ Day sales, Syntun says.
JD.com Inc. was in second place at 16.4%, followed by electronics and home goods retailer Suning Appliance Co. Ltd. at 4.2%, online-only apparel retailer Vipshop Holdings Ltd. at 4.2% and Amazon China, with 2.2% of sales, according to Syntun.
The Singles’ Day sales total far eclipses the biggest single U.S. online shopping day, which was Cyber Monday 2016—the Monday after Thanksgiving—when consumers purchased $3.45 billion online, according to Adobe Inc.
However, the Singles’ Day sale—which takes place Nov. 11 in China (hence the notation 11/11 that made it a celebration of being alone)—in fact has become a promotional event that spans several days.
Alibaba, whose Taobao and Tmall shopping portals account for the majority of retail e-commerce in China, allows customers to pre-order starting well before Nov. 11, and in some cases enables shoppers to put down a small deposit. When Nov. 11 arrives, those shoppers can click to purchase the items in their cart, producing a spurt of early sales. For example, Alibaba reported nearly $12 billion worth of sales, almost half of its total Singles’ Day sales, within the first two hours of the event. In fact, in just the first two minutes and one second of the day, consumers clicked to complete $1 billion in purchases, Alibaba says.
Alibaba reported total purchases for Singles’ Day of 168.3 billion yuan ($25.3 billion), up 39% from last year’s 120.7 billion yuan ($17.8 billion). Chinese consumes placed 90% of their Singles’ Day orders on mobile devices on, Alibaba says.
JD.com, Alibaba’s nearest rival, began its Singles’ Day sale Nov. 1, and announced sales of 127.1 billion yuan ($19.1 billion) for the 11-day period, an increase of more than 50% year on year. JD says it began the sale on the first of the month to reduce delivery bottlenecks and to give shoppers more time online to make purchasing decisions. JD.com didn’t break out it sales on Singles’ Day.
In Alibaba’s first Singles’ Day online sale in 2009, only 27 brands participated. This year 140,000 brands offered deals. That included 60,000 international companies, among them Adidas, Gap, Tag Heuer, Pandora, LVMH’s Rimowa luggage brand and Estée Lauder’s Mac cosmetics line.
While many of those brands sell through bricks-and-mortar stores in China and hold inventory in the country, overseas companies also won sales through what is known in China as “cross-border e-commerce.” These are special regulations governing small purchases made by individual Chinese consumers from non-Chinese websites that only ship goods into China when an order is place. These cross-border regulations provide an expedited customs process and in some cases lower import tariffs.
China’s customs authority, the General Administration of Customs, said Chinese consumers placed 16.19 million orders through cross-border online shopping on Singles’ Day.
Alibaba said Japan led the way in cross-border purchases on its online marketplaces on Singles’ Day, followed by the United States, Australia, Germany and South Korea.
JD.com is ranked No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s ranking of the top retailers by online sales in China of merchandise they own, according to Top500Guide.com. Suning is No. 2, Amazon China No. 4 and Vipshop No. 6. While Alibaba accounts for at least two-thirds of online sales in China, its marketplaces are not ranked because Alibaba is not the merchant of record for any sales, instead providing a platform for other merchants and brands to sell.