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Analysis: Pickup in U.S. 'Cyber Week' sales beat China's Singles Day gain

Published November 29, 2022

By Siddharth CavaleUday Sampath Kumar and Casey Hall

NEW YORK/SHANGHAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Online shopping fatigue set in across the United States and China as retailers in both countries posted mostly lackluster results during both Cyber Week and Singles Day, two of the world’s biggest promotional events, according to the latest data.

U.S. shoppers spent $35.27 billion online overall during Cyber Week, the period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. That's a ho-hum 4% gain over last year at a time when U.S. inflation is running more than 7%.

But the modest pickup trounced the paltry 2.9% increase in sales during China's Singles Day, an 11-day shopping festival ending November 11, hosted by Alibaba and other Chinese e-commerce firms.

From 2014 through last year, Singles Day posted growth rates of about 34% annually on average, versus Cyber Week's 17% average gain, according to data from consultancy Bain and from Adobe Analytics. Adobe Analytics measures e-commerce performance by analyzing purchases at 85% of the top 100 internet retailers in the United States.


Deborah Weinswig, founder and CEO of Coresight Research, said the U.S. results were a "Christmas miracle" given that many retailers began to dangle early holiday discounts way back in October. Amazon (AMZN.O) held a major Prime Day promotion in October.


Meanwhile, less travel among Chinese has dramatically changed what and how much they spend, Weinswig said.

Chinese shoppers bought vitamins, supplements and products for their pets' health, spending 934 billion yuan ($130.51 billion) during Singles Day, according to consultancy Syntun. Sales for Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce player, were flat, while newer, short-video e-commerce platforms, such as Douyin and Kuaishou, showed some sales growth, according to Citi analysts.


In United States, deep discounts gave nearly 197 million shoppers reason to open their pocketbooks to purchase Pokemon toys, TVs, footwear and air fryers, spending money both online and in stores this year during the key Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping periods. That figure includes 130.2 million online shoppers, which rose 2% over last year, but at a slower pace, the National Retail Federation said on Tuesday.


Retailers focused their promos and discounts on consumer electronics and clothing, Weinswig said.

Jane Hali, CEO of retail research firm Jane Hali & Associates, said she expects flat sales overall for the U.S. holidays, after adjusting for the impact of inflation.


Cyber Week includes Black Friday, historically a social event with families getting out of the house together search for deals on holiday gifts. Many people will buy something on Black Friday to mail it to relatives before Christmas, said Alexander Chernev, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management.


Singles Day, in contrast, is focused on instant delivery of items purchased online, Chernev added.


Originally, Singles Day was an unofficial Chinese holiday on Nov. 11 (11/11) to celebrate people who were not in relationships.


However, e-commerce giant Alibaba co-opted the day in 2009 to win over online shoppers with discounts and promotions.


These days, brands use Singles Day to clear inventory and experiment with new products. It has become far less important to Alibaba's bottom line.


With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in China, it won't be fair to compare Singles Day with Cyber Week, Chernev said, as Americans are shopping with fewer restrictions.


Cyber Week is only part of the U.S. holiday season, representing about 10% of overall sales in the fourth quarter of the year, Jane Hali & Associates estimates. Twenty-five days remain until Christmas, Dec. 25.

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