China’s ‘Singles Day’ Shopping Bonanza Loses Its Lustre

China’s annual “Singles Day” sales spree ends at midnight on Saturday, but as the world’s second-largest economy weakens, customers look mainly unmoved by its dazzling offers and discounts.

“Singles Day” — which this year lasted well over a week — was created by tech giant Alibaba in 2009 and has since grown into a yearly blockbuster retail extravaganza.

According to a recent research by consulting firm Bain, sales for last year’s Singles Day were 1.1 trillion yuan ($153 billion).

However, 77 percent of customers polled by Bain this year said they did not intend to spend more than normal during the sales event.

“These days people are consuming less, people don’t really have much of a desire to buy lots of things,” recent graduate Zhang Chuwen, 23, told AFP.

She claimed that her friends were instead purchasing “everyday necessity products” during the deals.

Others claim that this year’s Singles Day offers aren’t as excellent as in previous years, and that some websites raised prices ahead of time just to lower them for the holiday.

“The prices are not that different compared to other days,” Guan Yonghao, 21, told AFP.

“So I didn’t buy anything,” he added.

“We will save a little because we are making less money.”

According to Vincent Marion, co-founder of VO2 Asia Pacific, a digital economy consultant, Singles Day sales could still exceed 1 trillion yuan for the second year in a row.

“However, sales are stagnating due to the change in Chinese consumer habits, which now favour savings. Consumers have become better educated, more demanding and more thoughtful in their spending,” he told AFP.

According to his firm, sales have been down 7.5 percent year on year since Singles Day incentives began on October 24.

Marion noted that 42 percent of Singles shoppers this year purchased daily consumer products, and there were fewer purchases in the luxury category.

Singles Day has “lost its lustre” due to a confluence of developments, according to Jacob Cooke, co-founder and CEO of Beijing-based e-commerce consulting firm WPIC Marketing + Technologies.

“The proliferation of livestreaming and secondary shopping festivals… means that the relative attraction of Singles Day as a time to load up on discounted goods has been reduced,” he said.

Livestreamers, who gather millions for Chinese e-commerce firms with long online sales pitches, also report a drop in attendance compared to prior incarnations of the shopping extravaganza.

“This year’s Singles Day online sales are not as good as last year or two years ago,” Liu Kai, an e-commerce livestreamer, told AFP.

The name of the event riffs on a tongue-in-cheek celebration of singlehood inspired by the four ones in its date — November 11, or “11/11”.

But this year’s sales began on some platforms as early as late October.

Alibaba, like its main rival JD.com, withheld full sales numbers for the shopping extravaganza for the first time last year, instead claiming that sales were flat from the previous year.

The declining sales come on the heels of an announcement this week that China relapsed into deflation in October, illustrating the difficulty that officials have in reviving demand.

In recent months, Beijing has sought to shore up its flagging economy, introducing a slew of policies aimed mostly at the struggling property industry and a massive infrastructure spending plan.

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