Brands rake in millions as Alibaba’s Singles’ Day enters last stretch

More than 380 brands from Apple Inc to L’Oreal SA have raked in more than 100 million yuan ($15.7 million) each since Alibaba Group kicked off its Singles Day festival on Nov. 1, the company said on Thursday.

The online blitz is an 11-day event with the best deals concentrated in two discount periods, Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 11. Last year it racked up $74 billion in orders, or “gross merchandise value” (GMV).

Alibaba this year has toned down the marketing hype amid stringent regulatory scrutiny, but the event remains a top draw for millions of merchants and shoppers with livestreamers hawking products from skincare to sports shoes.

China‘s most popular livestreaming hosts, Li Jiaqi and Viya, begun livestreaming on Oct. 20 and respectively presold over 11.5 billion yuan and 8.53 billion yuan of products, according to Chinese media.

Analysts, however, say they are expecting Alibaba to report only a minor increase in GMV this year, citing slowing retail sales, supply shortages, power disruptions and COVID-19 lockdowns.

The company has done away with an audience for its annual entertainment gala this year and has not provided a media centre to reporters for the first time, citing COVID-19 precautions. It opted to livestream the event instead.

On the eve of the event’s final 24 hours, the livestreamed gala on Wednesday featured British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his portrayal of fictional crime-fighter Sherlock Holmes, who provided clues to puzzles the hosts solved via video message. Prior to the pandemic, Singles’ Day galas saw in-person performances by stars such as Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams.

Track star Su Bingtian, the first Chinese person to compete in the men’s 100-meter final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, also appeared this year, along with other Chinese celebrities and performers.

The shopping event caps a year of ongoing regulatory tightening from Chinese authorities in a number of industries during which Alibaba was a frequent target.

The e-commerce giant was fined a record $2.8 billion for monopolistic behaviour in April and its founder Jack Ma, China’s highest-profile entrepreneur, has retreated from public view after criticising Chinese regulators a year ago.

The crackdown has extended into the Singles’ Day sales period. On Nov. 5, regulators in Guangdong Province convened with a number of e-commerce companies, including Alibaba to warn about uncompetitive practices, fake merchandise, and other issues.

Alibaba declined to comment on the meeting.

Author: Josh Horwitz, Reuters

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