This article initially ran on CNBC on November 11, 2019.
By: Arjun Kharpal
HANGZHOU, China — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba set a sales record on Singles Day, the world’s largest 24-hour shopping event.
Gross merchandise value, a figure that shows sales across Alibaba’s shopping platforms, surpassed last year’s 213.5 billion yuan record (nearly $30.5 billion) on Monday afternoon local time and kept rising through the rest of the day.
At the end of the event, GMV stood at 268.4 billion yuan, just under a 26% rise from the figure posted last year. That’s a slower growth rate than the 27% seen on last year’s Singles Day. In dollar terms, the GMV figure was around $38.3 billion.
It was the 11th edition of the annual Singles Day event — also called the Double 11 shopping festival because it falls on Nov. 11. During the 24-hour period, which began at midnight in Singapore and Hong Kong, Alibaba offered huge discounts across its e-commerce sites such as Tmall.
Alibaba’s Singles Day sales last year exceeded the spending by consumers during any single U.S. shopping holiday such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
To help boost sales, Hangzhou-based Alibaba expanded the number of discounted items in this year’s event and put a heavy emphasis on livestreaming via its platforms to help sell goods. Livestreaming has become a big part of the shopping experience on Chinese e-commerce sites.
Online personalities often speak to their followers and talk about products as well. On Wednesday, Kim Kardashian did a livestream announcing her fragrance brand KKW will be available for sale on Tmall.
Alibaba’s new record comes as it faces a slowing Chinese economy and stiff competition from domestic rivals. While Alibaba is the name often associated with the mega shopping event, competitors JD.com and Pinduoduo all offer their own sales. JD.com was already offering some Double 11 discounts before the actual day. Even Southeast Asia’s e-commerce platforms have jumped on the bandwagon.
The day got off to a strong start for Alibaba. GMV hit $12.01 billion in the first hour. Within an hour and a half, Alibaba’s sales exceeded the total reached on Singles Day in 2016.
Some of the top-selling products early in the day included the 5G version of Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro smartphone, as well as Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max.
Amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, there was some concern that American brands could get the cold shoulder from Chinese consumers. But this was not the case.
The U.S. was the second country by GMV in terms of countries selling to China.
Jacob Cooke, CEO of WPIC, an e-commerce tech and marketing firm that helps foreign brands sell in China, told CNBC that jewelry and apparel were the most popular product categories from American retailers.
He said everything his company has managed is “way up over last year.”
“There is no downturn there. There is no evidence there is sentiment decline for U.S. brands,” Cooke said.