E-commerce giants Alibaba and JD kept silent on their Singles Day sales totals this year, the first time they chose not to publicize the data from their gross merchandise volume (GMV) performance. Alibaba said the results were “in line with last year’s GMV performance,” while rival JD claimed its growth rate exceeded the industry average.

Why it matters: The decision of Alibaba and JD, the two main participators in the year-end shopping festival, to not disclose their sales totals is in stark contrast to previous years when both have been quick to trumpet the amount of money brought in. The move comes against the recent backdrop of the Chinese authorities’ reining in of tech companies and could also indicate an underwhelming performance after years of rocketing growth. 

Details: Although the two major players failed to publicly confirm their sales totals, Chinese media outlet Yicai cited statistics from Xingyun Data on Nov. 13 showing that overall sales across all platforms during this year’s Singles Day hit RMB 1.1 trillion ($157.1 billion), up 13.7% year-on-year. 

  • Sales from China’s top e-commerce platforms, including Alibaba’s Tmall, JD, and Pinduoduo, increased just 2.9% to RMB 934 billion, Xingyun Data reported.
  • The total value generated by the live e-commerce arms of short video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou was RMB 181.4 billion, an increase of 146.1% over the same period last year, according to Xingyun.
  • Douyin’s e-commerce arm has declined to release specific GMV figures since it began participating in Singles Day in 2019, instead offering alternative statistics. According to the data provided by Douyin on Nov. 12, the cumulative hours of live e-commerce on the platform during this year’s event increased by 50% to 38.21 million hours compared to last year, with 7,667 live rooms seeing sales surpass the RMB 1 million mark this year.
  • Alibaba said in its press release that they saw strong growth this year in categories including sports and outdoors, pet products, collectible toys, and jewelry. 
  • Sales of consumer electronics and home appliances also grew across the major e-commerce platforms this year. Mobile phones and home appliances were generally the categories to break RMB 100 million first on multiple platforms, though this is due to the high unit price.
  • “A combination of economic and regulatory factors are leading the platform companies to emphasize customer loyalty and sustainability instead of GMV,” Jacob Cooke, CEO of e-commerce marketing firm WPIC, told TechNode. He added that the platforms are also hesitant to celebrate their GMV numbers amid the government’s common prosperity and anti-monopoly drives. Cooke’s company frequently helps foreign brands to sell on Chinese platforms.

Context: Over the past two years, China’s tech companies have been dealing with weak consumption, especially after many local governments imposed strict Covid control measures earlier this year. Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that the total retail sales of consumer goods were only up 0.7% year-on-year from January to September.

  • Logistics is limited in many areas amid rising Covid cases, which has also affected consumers’ shopping enthusiasm to some extent.
  • In 2021, Alibaba recorded its slowest-ever growth since the company appropriated Singles Day and turned it into a consumerist festival, with sales increasing 8.5% from 2020 to RMB 540.3 million. Earlier this year, JD also saw the slowest expansion in its GMV total for its 618 shopping festival since it first disclosed figures for the event in 2017.

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Beijing. She covers e-commerce and retail, blockchain, and Web3. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.