China eyes world’s biggest shopping spree amid pandemic

By Wang Cong, Qi Xijia and Huang Lanlan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/20 20:11:04 Last Updated: 2020/10/20 20:15:03

Singles’ Day set for new record, to boost economic recovery: experts


Just as new data highlighted China’s solid economic recovery from COVID-19 and injected fresh confidence in consumers and businesses, Chinese online shopping platforms are rushing to prepare for what could be the world’s biggest shopping spree this year, setting up the stage for the world still under a dark cloud from the pandemic to witness yet another miracle of the Chinese economy from the deadly virus.

Three weeks before the start of the annual Singles Day shopping festival, major e-commerce platforms are already boasting a record number of promotions and participants, and foreign and domestic vendors are scrambling to fill up shelves to cash in the biggest chance to make up for losses this year. Consumers are adding everything from new iPhones to laundry detergent to their virtual shopping carts in anticipation for generous offers.

With such a busy scene and widespread fanfare, analysts expect this year’s Singles’ Day sales to surpass last year’s $61 billion, which would further propel the world’s second-largest economy to achieve solid recovery in the last quarter of the year, even as other major economies are expected to see severe contractions.

Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2020 shows automated robots sorting goods at an intelligent warehouse of a logistics industry park in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. The intelligent warehouse featuring robots, automation and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technologies has been put into service this summer. (Photo by Liang Xiaopeng/Xinhua)

Preparing for a ‘miracle’

At a high profile event in Shanghai, Alibaba, which first turned the day of celebrating “single blessedness” into a massive online shopping event, announced that 800 million consumers and five million vendors would participate in what it described as the world’s biggest consumer season this year. 

To maximize this year’s outcome, Alibaba will launch sales activities as early as November 1 before the main event on November 11, with discounts on 14 million products as well as millions of tourism and entertainment packages. Presales will start on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant said.

Rival e-commerce company also announced that it would launch three main events starting Wednesday, with a 50 percent discount on as many as 200 million products and 300 million new items. The platform said that 900 million shoppers and 500,000 products from 100 countries and regions will take part, where discounts totaling 10 million yuan could be offered., the main home appliances platform which kicked off its Singles’ Day sales as early as September 28, also said it would offer discounts totaling 10 million yuan, including 100 million items with deep discounts. 

“This [Singles’ Day event] couldn't come at a better time. The confidence is fully back and even higher than before,” Alexander Dony, president of German home alliances giant BSH China, told the Global Times on the sidelines of Alibaba’s event in Shanghai on Tuesday, noting that Chinese consumers have shown great resilience.

Fresh economic data released on Monday showed that the Chinese economy, which grew 4.9 percent in the third quarter, remains on a steady recovery. Particularly encouraging is a solid rebound in consumer spending, as retail sales rose in the first nine months at 0.9 from the same time last year. Disposable income also returned to growth in the first nine months at 0.6 percent.

Many consumers across the country, who were trapped at home for months by the virus, are also eager to spend money during this year’s Singles’ Day event. Chen Xing, a 28-year-old Shanghai resident, said that she has already been looking at everything from Apple’s new iPhone, to winter jackets, to travel packages. “I have saved up 20,000 yuan to spend on Singles’ Day because expenses were much less, as I worked from home in the first half of the year,” Chen told the Global Times.

Such uplifting consumer sentiment is also what the e-commerce platforms and foreign and domestic vendors are counting on for what some expect to be “miracle” Singles’ Day sales this year amid the global pandemic.

“On online consumption-fueled economic growth, the world is counting on China, China is counting on e-commerce and e-commerce is counting on [Singles’ Day],” Hu Qimu, a senior researcher at the China Digital Economy Institute, said in a note sent to the Global Times on Tuesday. He said this year’s Singles’ Day event has a “special mission” to not only boost consumption and growth, but also help small and medium-sized enterprises.

In Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province, the main hub for small commodities trade, small factories are already seeing rising orders ahead of the shopping spree. “Our orders have already risen by 50 percent from July and August – all because of early stocking for the sales event,” Yu Junfei, customer manager of Aoxiang Stationery in Yiwu, a stationery supplier in Yiwu, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Chen Junsong, the general manager of Yiwu International Trade City’s District 3, said that orders for vendors in the city this year could reach last year’s level, as both overseas and domestic orders are warming up.

Analysts said that sales could reach new records this year, and contribute greatly to growth in the fourth quarter. In 2019, total sales on the main platforms reached 410.1 billion yuan ($61.4 billion), according to some estimates. 

Photo: VCG

Boost to economy

That sales prospect, coming on top of solid consumer spending during the National Day holiday earlier this month, could further accelerate the growth of the Chinese economy in the fourth quarter, analysts said.

“Consumption is the biggest engine for the Chinese economy, and e-commerce has become the stabilizer and propeller of the Chinese economy’s resumption and recovery,” Zhong Hongjun, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said in a press release.

Despite a widespread shutdown in economic activity earlier this year, online retail sales rose by 15.3 percent in the first nine months of the year, according to official data released on Tuesday. Consumption contributes roughly 30 percent to China’s GDP.

Amid a solid rebound in consumption and other areas, Chinese economists surveyed by the Global Times predicted that growth in the Chinese economy could reach 7 percent in the last quarter of the year, compared to a record 6.8 percent contraction in the first quarter.

Full-year GDP growth could reach between 2.7 percent and 3.3 percent, Chinese analysts said. The IMF said in its latest forecast that China’s economy could grow by 1.9 percent in 2020, while the global economy could contract by 4.4 percent.

With such a gloomy outlook for the global economy, the Singles’ Day event will not only provide a boost to China’s growth, but also offer a bright spot for the global economy, with some foreign businesses directly benefiting from it, industry analysts said. 

"It’s all about the resilience that Chinese consumers showed… We believe that China will lead world economic growth,” Dony said.


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