Shanghai |Swisse vitamins, A2 milk and Australian beef were amongst the top-selling brands flying off the online shelves during the world’s biggest annual shopping extravaganza over the weekend.
But while it still ranked as one of the top-selling countries in China, Australia slipped one spot to fourth place during the country’s 24-hour annual online event, known as Singles’ Day.
The shopping festival, which was created by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba a decade ago, has grown into the world’s most successful retail marketing campaign. Designed initially to encourage single people to treat themselves by going shopping on 11/11 – considered a lucky date in China – the event this year racked up a whopping 213.5 billion yuan ($42.4 billion) in sales. That was 27 per cent higher than last year.
Alibaba said on Monday that Australia was fourth top country globally selling products into the world’s biggest consumer market during the 24-hour online sale. Australia came third last year. The top three were Japan, the United States, and South Korea.
The hype in China surrounding Singles Day, which Alibaba has expanded to promotional campaigns in other countries, is staggering. Alibaba hosted a gala event in Shanghai on Saturday night featured pop diva and James Packer’s former fiancee Mariah Carey. Australian super model Miranda Kerr was also there on the catwalk and reportedly singing in Chinese.
Whipping up China’ 1.4 billion population into a shopping frenzy via endless promotions and promises of discounts is the key to the event’s success. However, China’s slowing economy as the US trade war starts to hurt consumer sentiment means Alibaba will struggle to break another record next year.
Despite slipping a few slots, Australian brands nonetheless punched above their weight.
Swisse, an Australian supplements producer now owned by a Chinese company, was the number one imported brand; Australian vitamin brand Bio Island was fifth and a2 Milk was sixth. In the first hour of the event, sales of Australian lamb increased 775 per cent from last year.
“We are very pleased with our stronger performance but we are even more encouraged by Alibaba’s 27 per cent overall value growth of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival,” Jayne Hrdlicka, chief executive of the a2 Milk Company, said “This significant uplift in sales reflects the growing middle class in China, a healthy open economy and a strong consumer appetite for premium high-quality brands, with 40 per cent of purchases being international products.”
Oliver Horn, Swisse managing director, said: “Single’s Day is China’s biggest shopping event and is a barometer of how popular brands are in the market.”
Although it invented Singles Day, Alibaba now faces competition for sales from other platforms such as JD.com. Swisse said its sales on JD.com were more than 35 times last year’s during the first hour of the sale, which started at midnight.
The top 10 categories of imported products were health supplements, milk powder, facial masks, nappies, serums, infant and toddler nutrition, emulsion, face wash, make-up remover and toner. More than 1 billion delivery orders were processed and 40 per cent of the good solds were from imported brands.
“Today we witnessed the strength and rise of China’s consumption economy and consumers’ continued pursuit to upgrade their everyday lifestyles,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group.
Alibaba, founded by one of China’s most famous entrepreneurs Jack Ma, was under pressure to beat last year’s numbers when the company reported 39 per cent growth and 168 million yuan in transactions during the festival. There are growing concerns about an economic slowdown in China.
Like China’s official economic data, the sales figures are not always reliable and in the past there have been reports of fake sales and phoney discounts to artificially prop up the numbers.
Many of the 150 Australian companies at Xi Jinping’s import expo in Shanghai last week will be hoping for a bigger slice of action from the event this year.