News & Analysis

Singles’ Day shows strength of e-commerce

Alibaba again smashes record on China’s big shopping day

It took just two minutes after midnight to hit US$1 billion. If confirmation were needed of the continued growth of the e-commerce market, then November’s Singles’ Day (or 11.11) in China is it. Cathay Pacific head of cargo sales & distribution John Cheng added: “Overall, we know that e-commerce is continuing to grow.”

This year, as in past years, the retail frenzy that sees online shoppers flock to the virtual malls for bargains as ever broke Alibaba’s own records with sales to the value of US$25 billion (168.2 billion yuan), up by 40 per cent on 2016.

Alibaba, whose platforms host the thousands of shops and traders that participate in Singles’ Day, alone dwarfs similar retail sales days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. The annual event now culminates in a TV spectacular from Shanghai, this year featuring stars including actor Nicole Kidman and musician Pharrell Williams.

Less ‘Happy’ potentially than the Williams-penned chart hit are the army of fulfilment companies tasked with delivering the millions of packages. The bulk of the work will be shouldered by the Alibaba-owned Cainiao, which like its patron is formed by a network of nationwide fulfilment and delivery companies handling goods from warehouses to final mile delivery. It, along with online marketplace, spent huge sums on preparation for ‘Double 11’, including setting up collection points for consumers for the billion or so packages that will be in transit between 11-16 November.

Clifford Kwok, head of cargo customer solutions and airline partnerships at Cathay Pacific said: “This year’s Singles’ Day in China has trumped both Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in the US. Alibaba sales smashed the existing record set in 2016. Such an encouraging sales volume increase will no doubt contribute to the increase of cargo volume into and out of China for Cathay Pacific Cargo.”

John Cheng added: “The business comes to us in various forms. A good portion involves the integrators if they require additional lift from commercial carriers. Some of the consignments we carry also come from the post offices, and quite a lot of consolidated consignments from individual agents to take packages to international fulfilment hubs.

“It’s usually the case that high value shipments will be handled by integrators, so we are more likely to be handling shipments where there is more time to fulfil deliveries, so the yield is not necessarily there, but the volumes are getting more substantial.”

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