Global luxury retailers embraced the Singles’ Day online shopping bonanza this year like never before, pulling out all the stops to attract Chinese consumers amid a gloomy outlook for consumption elsewhere in the world. About 200 luxury brands launched special promotions on Tmall to take advantage of the shopping festival, which is held on November 11 every year, doubling the number reported last year, according to Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the e-commerce platform as well as this newspaper. Many brands were launching Singles’ Day promotions on the platform for the first time. These included Spanish fashion house Balenciaga, Italy’s Prada, as well as a handful of clothes, jewellery and watch brands owned by Swiss group Richemont, such as Cartier, Piaget, Montblanc and IWC Schaffhausen. Singles' Day was first promoted by Alibaba in 2009 and has since become famous for the steep discounts rolled out by vendors over the years. The shift to this Black Friday-style festival underscores the growing importance of Chinese shoppers and e-commerce amid the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to batter the global luxury goods industry. “The biggest change that has resulted from the pandemic for these luxury brands is that they have realised they must shift online,” said Veronica Wang, partner at retail industry consultancy OC&C Strategy Consultants. Cartier, for instance, hosted its first live streaming show on October 24 to promote more than 400 pieces of jewellery and watches, including a necklace valued at 190 million yuan (US$29 million). The show attracted 770,000 viewers in two hours, according to data provided by Alibaba. “The fact that they are doing live streaming – something they thought they’d never do before – shows that the mindset of luxury brands is changing. They are no longer high above and far away from the consumers,” Wang said. Chinese consumers are set to make up about half of global spending on high-end brands this year, up from 37 per cent last year, according to McKinsey & Company. Richemont, for example, reported a 78 per cent jump in its China sales during the six months ended on September 30 from the same period last year. Chinese e-commerce giants step up sales of discounted homes on Singles’ Day These consumers assume greater importance for brands amid concerns that luxury sales globally could contract between 20 per cent and 35 per cent this year from last year, according to a forecast by consultancy Bain & Company. And since pandemic has kept Chinese tourists away from boutiques in Paris, Tokyo and New York , the brands must go to them. “Chinese consumers are going online at an even faster pace after the outbreak, so brands have to grow more [online] sales channels,” Wang said. On a preliminary basis, the Singles' Day promotions seem to have been a success. JD.com, a rival of Alibaba’s, reported that the transaction value of goods from more than 130 luxury brands surged by 100 per cent year on year in the first 30 minutes of sales that started at 12am on Wednesday. Retailers such as Chloe and Balenciaga said their items were sold out within hours during presales and sales in the weeks leading up to November 11. Italian fashion brand Furla reported that its sales volume within the first hour on Wednesday already was 20 times the number it recorded on an average day in September and October. Swiss retailer Bally reported that its sales had surged by 60 times during the same time frame.