China’s shoppers splash the cash in world’s biggest spending spree

SHANGHAI: Chinese consumers snapped up everything from food to electronics and beauty products on Wednesday as retailers slashed prices for the world’s largest online shopping bonanza, closely watched this year for clues on post-pandemic consumer sentiment.
The marathon spending spree has for more than a decade seen China’s army of shoppers shell out colossal amounts of cash that has dwarfed the incomes of many small nations.
And this year will be no exception.
While “Single’s Day” — so-called for its annual 11.11 date — has long-been a 24-hour event, e-commerce giant Alibaba has expanded it to an 11-day promotion beginning November 1.
As of Tuesday night, Alibaba platforms had already processed 372.3 billion yuan ($56.5 billion) in sales over that period, more than the GDP of Iceland, Lebanon and Georgia combined.
Leading China retailers such as Alibaba, JD.com, and Pinduoduo compete aggressively for Single’s Day, which far outstrips the pre-Christmas “Black Friday” promotion in the United States.
But Chinese regulators cast a gloom over the biggest e-commerce stretch of the year by announcing draft antitrust rules that signal a looming crackdown on high-flying internet giants.
The rules published on Tuesday outlined plans to prevent “monopolistic behaviour” among internet companies, which tend to develop captive ecosystems.
Alibaba’s Taobao platform, for example, supports payments via its own Alipay rather, but not the WeChat Pay technology of rival Tencent.
Chinese tech shares tumbled for a second day on Wednesday. Alibaba shed more than eight per cent in Hong Kong — just a week after regulators halted an enormous IPO by its Ant Group financial arm — and rival JD.com fell a similar amount.
This year’s shopping is being closely followed around the world as a guide to the state of China’s crucial consumer sector, which is increasingly more important to the future of the world’s biggest economy.
As the country emerges from the effects of the virus and tight lockdowns, the recovery in retail sales has lagged that seen in industrial sectors, but is gaining pace, analysts said.
“Single’s Day” originally focused on sales of certain items like beauty products and electronics, said Melanie Sanders, Asia-Pacific head of retail for consultancy Bain & Company.
But e-commerce in China has expanded to include just about anything a consumer might purchase, including groceries, as digitally savvy Chinese opt for the convenience of online shopping.
The pandemic, which has made many Chinese wary of crowds, is furthering this trend, she said.
“We’re expecting it to be another very, very strong year, another record’’, Sanders said.
— AFP