Alibaba posts record Singles' Day sales, but growth slows

Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:47pm EST
 
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By Catherine Cadell

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N: Quote) Singles' Day festival posted a record 120.7 billion yuan ($17.73 billion) worth of sales on Friday, though the gala shopping day saw growth slow as Chinese shoppers searched for deeper discounts and lower pricetags.

Amid fanfare and celebrity razzmatazz, sales on Alibaba's platforms had raced to a billion dollars in less than five minutes and broke past last year's total with almost nine hours of the day-long shopping gala to spare.

The final total marked a 32 percent rise from 2015, but growth was significantly lower than the 60 percent increase last year, a reflection of more caution among shoppers who opted to spend less money on each purchase than in previous years.

The 24-hour event, held annually on Nov. 11, offers a benchmark for Alibaba's performance and an insight into China's swing to online shopping, especially via smartphones.

Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma played down the importance of the final figure in a speech shortly before midnight, echoing other executives who spoke during the day.

"(Singles' Day) is not about a number only," said Ma, adding that the gross merchandise value (GMV) metric was "misleading" because it undervalued the company's wider ecosystem.

GMV refers to the value of goods sold by vendors through Alibaba's platforms. Alibaba makes money through advertising and charging vendors a proportion of their sales.

"When volumes started to grow a little less fast I actually became more relaxed," said Ma, citing the challenge of handling such a large number of orders. "We don't want to collapse the entire logistics system."   Continued...

 
People watch a screen displaying the total value of goods sold during Alibaba Group's 11.11 Singles' Day global shopping festival in Shenzhen, China, November 12, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip