Alibaba's Singles Day Still Setting Global Sales Records 10 Years Later
After launching its annual shopping extravaganza at midnight on Saturday evening, Alibaba said it had already surpassed last year's total sales figure of $168.2 billion yuan ($24.2 billion) by 3:49 p.m. the following day.
The launch of the event, which featured singer Mariah Carey, Australian model Miranda Kerr and Cirque du Soleil, was broadcast live from Shanghai on two television channels and video streaming platform Youku.
Singles Day has rapidly grown to become the largest shopping day of the year, more than the sales generated on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
This year’s event is taking place against a backdrop that includes a trade war with the U.S., something billionaire founder Jack Ma recently called the “most stupid thing in this world.” Alibaba, which began in 1999 as a platform for connecting buyers from around the world with Chinese suppliers, benefits from the flow of goods across borders.
As part of the company’s efforts to expand into Southeast Asia, Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada was pushing Singles Day promotions for the first time in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Singles Day, which derives its name from the date Nov. 11, an informal holiday that originally started out as an anti-Valentines’ Day. China’s unmarried young adults had been celebrating their lack of romantic attachments by splurging on gifts for themselves.
Alibaba co-opted the event in 2009 at the behest of Daniel Zhang, the company’s current CEO who will replace Ma as executive chairman next year. Taobao Mall kicked off that first Singles Day by offering discounts of at least 50% along with free domestic shipping. Alibaba said it had received $7.8 million in sales in the 24-hour period that began at 12 a.m. on Nov. 11.
Ma, who is currently ranked the wealthiest person in China with a net worth estimated at $34.4 billion, has been leading the tech giant since he co-founded it with 17 other people in in the coastal city of Hangzhou. The former English teacher said in September he would step down from his post next year.
“Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time, because I know from working with them that they are ready,” Ma wrote in a letter to Alibaba's employees, customers and investors. “I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders.”
Zhang has been the architect behind Alibaba’s Singles Day success over the past 10 years. He has also been credited with a new retail initiative that seeks to merge online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores through its Hema grocery chain.
Alibaba's succession plan will see Zhang take over what has become the country’s largest internet company, with a market cap of almost $375.5 billion, while contending with the trade war abroad combined with a slowing economy and rising competition from JD.com and Pinduoduo in its home market.