Chinese e-commerce booms during mid-year festival, indicating consumer power still strong amid Covid-19

·3-min read

Chinese e-commerce giants JD.com and Alibaba have seen a boom in sales during the first big shopping festival since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, indicating that online shopping is alive and kicking despite a wider slowdown in the economy.

JD.com, the country’s second-largest e-commerce platform, racked up 239.3 billion yuan (US$33.8 billion) of sales during the 618 midyear shopping festival as of 2pm on Thursday, already passing the total for last year, according to the company.

Transactions on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall marketplace were also up 100 per cent year-on-year during the first hour of business on Thursday, according to China’s biggest e-commerce player.

“The FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) category and fresh produce have experienced continuous growth from the beginning of the pandemic until today,” Xu Lei, chief executive of JD Retail, said in a group interview at JD’s Hong Kong secondary listing ceremony in Beijing on Thursday.

On JD.com, sales of dry food, maternity, children-related products and alcohol exceeded 100 million yuan in the first minute of trade on Thursday. Sales of Apple products surpassed 100 million yuan in just the five seconds, indicating that demand for the US tech giant’s iPhones and devices remains strong in China. The first order only took about 8 minutes to deliver to the customer in Urumqi, in north-western Xinjiang province.

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China’s economy has been slowly recovering from the first period of lockdown between January and March, with industrial output growing steadily and consumption indicators slowly creeping towards growth. China’s economy contracted an unprecedented 6.8 per cent in the first three months of the year.

“In my business group, there is not a single category that is not performing well,” said Carol Fung, president of JD.com’s FMCG and omnichannel segments at a round table sharing event last week.

The 618 annual sales gala, which runs between June 1 and June 18, was first created by JD.com on June 18, 2004. It is similar to the Singles’ Day shopping festival run by its rival Alibaba. The country’s two biggest shopping sprees now serve as a barometer of broad consumer sentiment and retail health in the world’s second-largest economy.

“Online consumption has seen a post-pandemic revival since March and the sales rebound that we have observed on Taobao and Tmall has been very encouraging,” Liu Bo, vice-president of Alibaba Group Holding and general manager of Tmall and Taobao marketing and operations, said in a company statement earlier this month.

Meanwhile total transactions at Suning’s Super Show, the company’s live streaming program for its midyear shopping festival, surpassed 500 million yuan by late Wednesday.

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