Chinese Mobile Payments Leader Alibaba’s Singles Day Sets Another Record in China

November 13, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Retail is still big business in China, and it’s still a record-breaking proposition. The most recent such record came with this year’s arrival of the great 11-11 special, known as Singles Day in China for all the ones involved. It was a record-breaker once again, and it’s got some wondering just how much longer this streak can remain alive.

The old record for Singles Day shopping was set last year at around $30.5 billion. That record is once again beaten, if only just, at around $31 billion. It took just 90 minutes for Alibaba’s gross merchandise value (GMV) to clear the $12 billion mark and beat the record for the whole season set back in just 2016. 

For those keeping track, this blows away any figure posted on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other single US shopping holiday event. Contributing to the massive gains were a range of extra discounts, as well as some live streaming events. Some pre-shopping run-up helped as well, including the November 6 launch of KKW, a new fragrance from Kim Kardashian. 

It’s fitting that this proved a record-breaking year, especially given that it’s the 11th such Singles Day to ever actually occur. It got its start back in 2008. However, this one also came with competition; both JD.com and Pinduoduo joined the fray, and some non-Chinese firms took a stab at getting a share of that Singles Day cash as well.

One thing that’s fairly clear is that the gains are starting to slow. GMV for the 2017 event was $25.3 billion, which was up just about 39 percent from 2016. We all know that expansion can’t happen indefinitely, and it’s beginning to look like the Chinese floodgates are starting to slow up. That’s not out of line; when you’ve had better than a decade of expansions, eventually you have to hit a point where the process runs out of steam. There are only so many consumers, only so much disposable income, and with other firms joining the race, Alibaba’s dominance cannot continue forever.

Next year’s Singles Day, meanwhile, should be one to watch. The indefinite expansion has to end eventually, and this may be the breaking point.