BEIJING, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Chinese consumers clutched their wallets tight in this year’s Singles Day and continued seeking relatively economical home brands over pricier expensive labels, as strict COVID-19 curbs and economic uncertainty weighed on the shopping extravaganza.
From the evening of Oct. 31 through Thursday, more than 2,000 items generated sales exceeding 10 million yuan ($1.4 million) each on Tmall marketplace, more than half of them Chinese brands, according to data from the platform owned by e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (9988.HK).
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Alibaba said Singles Day sales were in line with last year, when gross merchandise value rose 8.5%, the lowest since the company started the shopping event in 2009. For the first time, Alibaba did not announce sales data this year.
The shopping festival, which has expanded from a one-day online event into a lengthy spree, is seen as a barometer for consumer sentiment in the world’s second-biggest economy.
Best-sellers this year included Chinese home appliance makers such as Haier, Midea and sportswear brand Anta, as well as international names such as Apple, L’Oreal and Nike.
Appliances outpaced other categories, while apparel remained the biggest drag, according to data by research firm YipitData on the pre-event period when shoppers can put down deposits on items.
Despite of the rise of new domestic brands in the past few years, foreign brands still enjoy huge reputational advantages in sectors where product quality or safety are top considerations, said Jacob Cooke, CEO of e-commerce consultancy WPIC Marketing + Technologies.
Alibaba rival JD.com said that in the 28 hours from 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, Chinese brands accounted for 80% of the sales of the top 20 brands.
Cooke said this did not reflect a domestic dominance of the entire market, though, as JD.com is especially strong in high-value consumer electronics such as computers and smartphones, where Chinese makers have long held sway in the local market.
Repeated COVID lockdowns in cities across China drove consumers to spend on improving life quality at home.
Chinese consumers are increasingly willing to pay for appliances with specific functions, said JD.com. Sales of televisions with gaming functions jumped more than 180% in the 28-hour Singles Day period that JD.com reports from a year earlier, while high-end floor washers surged 400%.
Sales of TCL TVs, Dyson hair driers and Midea refrigerators doubled, JD.com said.
People also wanted to entertain themselves: RTX gaming computer sales rose 75%, Microsoft Xbox more than tripled and XR glasses spiked 530% on JD.com.
Camping-related sales were strong as an outdoor trend continued, with sales of portable power stations soaring 10-fold on JD.com.