Despite a trade war with the US and a softening economy, the Chinese shattered sales records on Singles’ Day.
BUY, buy and buy. This was what many Chinese did last Sunday over a 24-hour online buying frenzy known as the Double 11 Global Shopping Festival.
The annual event was initiated by China e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2009 to celebrate the nation’s Singles’ Day, which falls on Nov 11, but it has grown into the largest global shopping extravaganza.
And the shoppers did not let the merchants down, setting a stunning new sales record of 213.5bil yuan (RM129.88bil), a 27% jump over last year’s 168.2bil yuan (RM102.3bil).
The figure is more than one-third of Malaysia’s Budget for 2019.
I tried to join in the craze for the first time but found that it was too complicated and time-consuming. It is like buying tickets from the websites of low-cost airline carriers.
The participating brands had set aside limited numbers of items at huge discounts. So you have to be fast to grab the best deals. Most of the super value buy items were sold out in minutes.
Apart from this, weeks before the event began, consumers had to grab cash ang pow or discount coupons given out at certain time slots or play mini games in order to enjoy bigger discounts.
Without all these extra savings, I ended up getting a piece of luggage with just a 30 yuan (RM18) discount and winter legging from a popular brand for 50 yuan (RM30) less.
I could only envy those who managed to grab a list of items including electrical appliances and clothing for 1 yuan (60 sen) each as they showed off their purchases online.
For the first time, Alibaba extended the shopping spree to its customers in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, via Lazada.
According to the company, 40% of its Chinese customers have purchased goods from international brands and the top 10 countries were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Britain, France, Spain, New Zealand and Italy.
Alibaba also revealed that over 230 retailers achieved 100 million yuan (RM60.8mil) in sales.
So what did the Chinese buy? The popular items were beauty products, furniture, electrical appliances and cellphones, clothing, shoes and accessories offered by big brands.
The top imported items bought by the Chinese were healthcare supplements, infant formula, beauty products, diapers and baby food.
And Chinese products purchased by overseas shoppers were mostly clothing, shoes and cellphone accessories.
Alibaba executives believed that nothing could stop the Chinese middle class from enjoying a better lifestyle through the consumption of higher quality products and services despite the country facing cyclical and geopolitical economic challenges.
“The rise of the Chinese middle class is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war,” said Alibaba executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai.
Experts say the sales reflect strong potential spending power of the Chinese, even though the country is under pressure from a softening of its domestic economy and is feeling the strain of unresolved trade conflicts.
Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told China Daily that the nation still has a vast reservoir of unmet consumer demand.
“China has already achieved a middle-income level on average, and this income level has helped propel and stabilise its domestic consumption in recent years,” he said.
But some people argue that the figures do not reflect the real scenario. They say many online shoppers have abused the seven-day 100% money back policy by purchasing large amounts of goods to get more discounts, knowing that they will return the items they do not need after the event.
There are also many cases of over-excited consumers later regretting their purchases and sending them back.
This apparently happens a lot because some people have turned to social media sites to complain that the goods return system had collapsed.
China Railway Corp said it had added extra high-speed trains and cargo routes to meet the increased demand for parcel delivery.
A daily average of more than 850 high-speed passenger trains and 350 slow trains with baggage cars are being used until Nov 20 to cope with the logistical load.
Apart from this, courier service companies have been dealing with overstocked warehouses in the past few days now that the retailers have started sending out the goods to customers.
According to the China State Post Bureau, the shopping frenzy resulted in more than 1.35 billion parcels on Nov 11, an increase of 25% over the same period last year.