Alibaba’s Singles Day sales dwarf Amazon’s biggest dayNovember 12, 2018
Alibaba’s 10th annual Singles Day sale, which took place yesterday on 11/11, racked up $30.8 billion in sales and set a new record for the platform, reports CNBC. The figure represents a 27 percent year-on-year rise over 2017’s total of $25.3 billion, and was helped in part by the e-commerce giant’s expansion into in-store retail, combined with China’s large and tech-savvy middle class.
The figure dwarfs the revenue taken during similar major shopping days of US retailers. Amazon’s Prime Day sale in July, the retailer’s biggest day of the year, is estimated to have generated around $4 billion in sales (although Amazon doesn’t report exact numbers), selling 100 million items across the 17 countries. Meanwhile the Black Friday weekend is estimated to have generated a total of $14.05 billion in online sales for 4,500 US retail websites over the course of four days, with $6.59 billion of those sales taking place as part of Cyber Monday.
Although it’s useful to compare the two, Alibaba is less of a traditional retailer than Amazon. Alibaba is better thought of as a platform for everything from takeout apps to supermarkets and even film production.
There’s also reason to be skeptical of these astronomical numbers. Alibaba’s reporting is based on gross merchandise value (or GMV), which Bloomberg argues is an unreliable metric that doesn’t seem to correlate with revenue. The problem is that there isn’t a standardized way of measuring GMV, allowing one retailer to include orders that were never actually delivered.
Disputes over the validity of GMV matter because of the challenges facing Chinese retailers. The country’s economy is in the midst of a slowdown, and there are worries about the possibility for more government intervention in tech companies. The country’s ongoing trade war with the US is another contributing factor. This year’s sale may have broken records, but with GMV growth slowing to 27 percent year-on-year (down from 39 percent last year), the shopping holiday’s runaway growth might not last.