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Alibaba’s Singles Day Sets $31B Sales Record as China’s Economy Slows

National  + Weekender  | 

The four-hour variety show that kicked off this year’s Singles Day was, judging by an eyewitness account on Business Insider, a sight to behold, with performers including Cirque Du Soleil and Mariah Carey. And 24 hours after it began, Alibaba Group Holdings’ annual Nov. 11 online bargain-fest had set another record, blowing past the prior year’s high-water mark of $25.3 billion with a $30.8-billion total.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported that 2018’s Singles Day occurred against a backdrop of “China’s slowing economic growth, the trade fight with the U.S. and the diminished presence of Alibaba founder Jack Ma.” Ma appeared in the stage show only via prerecorded video this year, and recently he announced that he would retire as Alibaba’s executive chairman in 2019.

His successor, chief executive Daniel Zhang (pictured), told reporters at a Singles Day media briefing that he sees helping upgrade and digitize brick-and-mortar stores as crucial to expanding Singles Day in particular and Alibaba in general.

“People always ask, ‘Daniel, what is the ceiling to this?’ ” Zhang told reporters. “But today if we look at traditional online [spending in China], it’s 20% of consumption.”

Expanding the company’s reach further offline will “greatly extend the addressable market,” he said.

At the media briefing, the WSJ reported, Alibaba’s Joe Tsai acknowledged that a trade war might negatively affect China’s economy in the short term. In fact, Alibaba has cut its full-year forecast by as much as 6%, due to slowing growth in categories such as consumer electronics.

Overall, online sales growth in China slowed to 24% annually in the third quarter, down from 36% in Q2, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Longer term, though, both Alibaba and China are likely to be buoyed by a rising tide of increasingly affluent consumers, said Tsai. “There are 300 million [in China’s] middle class,” Tsai told reporters. “In the next 10, 15 years, that number will double to 600 million. That number is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war.”

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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