Alibaba Singles’ Day Sales Pass 2015 Total, But Growth Rate Slows

Sales on Alibaba’s platforms had raced to a billion dollars within 5 minutes and within the first 60 minutes had passed $5 billion.

This story originally appeared on Reuters

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Singles’ Day sales surged past last year’s 91.2 billion yuan ($13.36 billion) total with nearly nine hours left on the clock, but growth was markedly slower than in 2015 as shoppers sought a great deal larger price cuts.

Amid fanfare and celebrity razzmatazz, sales on Alibaba’s platforms had raced to a billion dollars within 5 minutes and within the first 60 minutes had passed $5 billion — a third faster than 2015 as the ecommerce giant looked to shrug off a domestic economic slowdown and a U.S. accounting probe.

The 24-hour event held annually on Nov. 11 offers a benchmark for Alibaba’s performance and an insight into China’s swing to online shopping, especially via smartphones. Launched in ’09 2009, Alibaba’s version of the function was made to encourage consumers with out a partner to take care of themselves.

Sales growth was down from last year’s 60 percent amid a far more saturated domestic online retail market, a weaker economy and sluggish personal income growth. A solid U.S. dollar also hit the headline sales figure in dollar terms.

The discount shopping day, also called "Double 11," still shifts more goods than Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the usa combined. Sales on Alibaba platforms, including Tmall and Taobao, are tipped to exceed $20 billion this season.

"Back 2013, 35 billion yuan ($5.14 billion) was our one-day GMV (gross merchandise volume)," said CEO Daniel Zhang in a live microblog posting on Alibaba’s event. "Now we are able to achieve it in a single hour."

Image credit: Reuters | Bobby Yip

GMV identifies the worthiness of goods sold by vendors through Alibaba’s platforms. Alibaba makes money through advertising and charging vendors a proportion of their sales.

Mobile shopping surge

After a beefed-up marketing push during the last month — with fashion shows and virtual reality games — sales officially opened at nighttime, releasing a wave of pre-orders that shoppers had placed prior to the event. Sports stars David Beckham and Kobe Bryant attended the countdown, though headline act Katy Perry pulled out last second citing a "family" issue.

At 15:19 p.m. (07:19 GMT) a live sales tracker at Alibaba’s main event in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen passed the 2015 yuan total, ensuring your day will set a fresh record but, in dollar terms, was still short of 2015’s $14.3 billion.

The rise of Singles’ Day reflects how China’s consumers, armed with smartphones, are racing online to look — to the detriment of bricks and mortar stores. Up to now on Friday, 83 percent of sales were via cellular devices, up strongly from this past year, Alibaba said.

Your day itself is a double-edged sword for most: Couriers, packaging firms and vendors say low prices and steep competition mean income are slim despite large sales volumes.

Cut-throat competition for customers in addition has caused concern over false advertising and massaged statistics. This week China’s business regulator advised mainland online shopping platforms to protect against suspect sales tactics.

IN-MAY this season, Alibaba said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was looking at how it reports its Single’s Day figures. Alibaba said at that time it had been cooperating with the authorities, and that the SEC advised it the investigation shouldn’t be seen as a sign the business had violated federal securities laws.

Alibaba declined to touch upon the SEC probe on Friday.

Alibaba isn’t the only retailer to mark Nov. 11 with an enormous sales drive. China’s number-two ecommerce player Inc. and many more also offer discount deals on your day.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Xihao Jiang; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Christopher Cushing)