Chinese e-commerce giants including Alibaba and JD.com have announced new record-breaking sales for Singles Day, the 11-day shopping extravaganza that ended Wednesday at midnight.

Why it matters: Singles Day, typically a 24-hour event, has evolved into a weeks-long shopping festival. Alibaba, credited with popularizing the promotion, extended the event this year by creating two shopping windows that combined spanned Nov. 1 to 11.

  • Singles Day is the world’s largest sales event and is considered an informal bellwether for China’s economic health.
  • The two checkout periods mean that gross merchandise volume (GMV) recorded on the actual Nov. 11 date do not total all of the sales for the promotion, as in prior years.

Details: Alibaba booked RMB 498.2 billion ($74.1 billion) in GMV for the Singles Day promotional period of Nov. 1 to 11, an increase of 26% compared to the same timeframe in 2019, according to the company.

  • JD.com, which always discloses 11-day figures for the event, recorded RMB 271.5 billion in GMV during the same period, rising 33% year on year compared with the 28% annual growth seen last year, to RMB 204.4 billion.
  • China’s overall e-commerce sales across platforms for Nov. 11 dropped to RMB 332.87 billion from RMB 410.1 billion booked last year, according data from China-based data services company Syntun. This figure does not include total sales for the 11-day period for all e-commerce platforms.
Singles Day shopping GMV across platforms on Nov. 11.
  • Alibaba lengthened the shopping period to 11 days to allow consumers more time to browse and grab deals while easing pressure on the logistics infrastructure, therefore creating a better shopping experience, Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang said during the September quarter earnings conference held on Nov. 5.
  • Despite splitting its sales with the first checkout window from Nov. 1 to 3, Alibaba remained the biggest Singles Day player on Nov. 11, accounting for 59% of total sales compared with 66% last year. JD.com accounted for 26% of sales compared with 17% last year, while Pinduoduo’s share stayed flat at 6% and Suning declined slightly to 3% from 5% a year ago.
  • Chinese couriers processed 3.9 billion parcels during the 11-day time period, according to data from the State Post Bureau. More than 675 million parcels were processed on Nov. 11, up 26% year on year. The number of packages during the post-promotional period between Nov. 11 to 16 is expected to rise 28% compared with last year to 2.9 billion, double the average daily number.
  • Brands are continuing to leverage the shopping event to promote new products. Syntun data showed 6.4% of the total 31 million stock-keeping units (SKUs) on sale on Nov. 11 were newly launched products, up from last year’s 5.4%.
  • Home appliances, smartphones and consumer electronics, apparel, and cosmetics were the most popular product categories.

Stepped-up scrutiny: The event took place as authorities tightened regulations over internet companies to curb anticompetitive practices, such as forced exclusivity and price discrimination.

  • The new rules have weighed on Chinese tech firms. Alibaba share prices in New York closed down around 9% on Wednesday since the draft rule was released on Tuesday, Beijing time. Share prices for JD.com dipped more than 2% during the timeframe.
  • In addition to government scrutiny, Alibaba is weathering the impact from its fintech affiliate Ant Group’s public offering debacle.

READ MORE: China widens antitrust rules to rein in internet firms

Context: First popularized by Alibaba in 2009, Singles Day has become the biggest national shopping promotion day in China.

  • This year’s shopping promotion comes as the whole country is focused on driving post-pandemic domestic consumption.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.