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China's Yearly Shopping Frenzy Humiliates Cyber Monday

Singles Day beats last year's $24B record at 4pm on Sunday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 11, 2018 9:56 AM CST
Workers count down to the start of Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in Shanghai, China, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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(Newser) – Online shoppers in China shattered last year's record of $24 billion in sales on the country's annual buying frenzy Sunday, as the tradition marked its 10th year. The spending binge has for years eclipsed Cyber Monday in the US for online purchases on a single day. This year's tally breaks gloomy forecasts about China, which is struggling with a tariff war with the US, a stock market slump, and slowing growth. Known as Singles Day, the clamor for deals was heralded with characteristic fanfare by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has turned an unofficial holiday for people without romantic partners into a yearly windfall for digital retailers. A massive screen at Alibaba's gala in Shanghai showed sales in real time: At 2 minutes and 5 seconds after midnight Saturday, $1.43 billion had been spent. Just before 4pm Sunday, sales hit $24.2 billion—surpassing last year's total purchases, reports the AP.

Singles Day began as a spoof celebrated by unattached Chinese university students in the 1990s. The holiday was co-opted by e-retailers in 2009 and transformed into China's version of Cyber Monday. The latter, however, saw only $6.6 billion in sales in 2017, by comparison. Ren Xiaotong, a 27-year-old accountant in Beijing, said she suspected online stores jacked prices ahead of Singles Day so they could trumpet discounts. "Singles Day ... has more tricks than before," Ren said. "You only save a few dozens of yuan at the end. ... I still bought a pair of shoes." Hong Tao, a Beijing economics professor, said Singles Day encourages shoppers to prioritize cheap prices over high quality, causing them to buy items they don't need. "People are swept up in the festivities," Hong said. "This burst of consumption, confined to just one day, can be exhausting for both buyers and sellers."

(Read more online shopping stories.)

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