China’s Singles Day: 3m people, 4,000 planes and cargo ships

Ships at Shanghai

Three million workers, helped by 4,000 planes and ships, are getting ready for the world’s biggest online sale with “revenge spending” tipped to be one of this year’s biggest trends. China’s Singles Day on 11 November is the world’s biggest 24-hour online shopping event, with 1.9bn products ordered and delivered last year, but it is thought pent-up demand from the pandemic will break new records. Robot cleaners, vacuums and toolboxes are all expected to be popular.

However, luxury brands are also hoping to get a boost, as millions of Chinese who have been unable to travel overseas on shopping trips go online for what experts are dubbing “revenge spending”. We anticipate ongoing international restrictions will cause a meaningful shift in Chinese consumers buying luxury online, said Michael Norris, at market research firm Agency China, an e-commerce consultancy based in Shanghai. Luxury brands have also risen to the occasion, with an estimated doubling in the number of luxury brands participating in Singles Day.

Singles Day in China, also known as 11.11 or Double 11, was originally created by online retailer Alibaba to celebrate the unattached, an antithesis to the romantically-involved on Valentine’s Day. Alibaba’s online shopping rival JD.com runs a similar event but Alibaba’s Singles Day is bigger in terms of goods sold and revenue. Last year, the gross merchandise value reached more than 210bn yuan (£23bn, US$31bn), double that of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, with sales hitting $1bn in a little over one minute of trading. This year, Singles Day kicked off early with an online selling spree between 1 – 3 November to cater to the growing demand from Chinese consumers, Wednesday will feature more than 350,000 local and international brands and even includes cars and houses for sale.

Cainiao, the logistics arm of Alibaba, said it is using more than 3,000 chartered flights and long-haul cargo ships to bring goods into China, meanwhile, a total of three million people across Cainiao and it’s partners will be involved in the logistics globally at warehouses and ports. It will also be using more than 10,000 mobile lockers to allow customers to pick-up parcels without human contact, Cainiao also plans to operate more than 700 chartered flights to deliver parcels outside China.

Cainiao warehouse

The use of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, predictive algorithms and big data analytics will empower merchants with demand forecast data and allow them to accurately pre-stock their goods in the right quantity and location, said James Zhao, general manager of global supply chain at Cainiao. Now in its twelfth year, health products such as vitamins and air purifiers are expected to be among the best-selling products on Singles Day, given the Covid-19 pandemic, last year, the most popular imported goods included pet food, healthcare and beauty products, with a 3,000% spike in beauty products for men.

Cainiao post station
Cainiao will use more than 10,000 mobile lockers to allow customers to pick-up parcels.

I expect beauty product sales to soar with foreign brands like L’Oreal doing very well. Sports apparel and vitamins will do well and consumers are placing increased importance on health, said Shaun Rein, founder of China Market Research Group. Companies like Vinda which sells toilet paper will do well as will soap companies like Unilever as consumer stock up in bulk on must-have items, he added, but for those looking to spend a little more, there are also about 800,000 properties on offer at a discount along with more than 200,000 cars.

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