China economy

Singles’ Day takings fail to boost November retail figures in China

Indicators released by Beijing show retail sales figures remained steady while industrial output rose 6.1 per cent last month

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 11:28pm

Singles’ Day on November 11 might have amassed a whopping 168 billion yuan (US$25.3 billion) in sales, but the popular shopping festival failed to lift China’s overall figures for November.

According to data released by China’s statistics bureau on Thursday, November’s retail sales in the world’s second-biggest economy were 3.41 trillion yuan, a slight drop from 3.42 trillion yuan in October, the National Bureau of Statistics figures showed. While sales last month were 10.2 per cent higher than a year earlier, growth rate has fallen below an average of 10.3 per cent so far this year.

Singles’ Day, China’s version of the US’s Black Friday, is seen as a measure of the spending power of Chinese consumers, but its impact on total retail sales figures, which covers both consumer and corporate spending, was limited this year.

Singles' day by the numbers

On November 11, the volume of sales transactions on platforms run by Alibaba, which in 2009 turned the celebration of single people into a festival of shopping, amounted to 168 billion yuan over 24 hours, or double the online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, the launch of the iPhone X last month lifted sales of “telecom equipment” in China.

In November, sales of telecom equipment surged 33.9 per cent from a year earlier to 55.7 billion yuan. In comparison, sales of telecom equipment in October rose merely 2.1 per cent to 34.2 billion yuan, according to data released on Thursday.

Spend too much on the US$25.3 billion Singles’ Day extravaganza? Now you can crowdsource your bill and get your friends to contribute

The steady retail sales figure for November is just one of a slew of indicators released by Beijing on Thursday, pointing to a lukewarm economy.

Industrial output rose 6.1 per cent in November, a slight slowdown from 6.2 per cent in October, while fixed-asset investment in the first 11 months also slowed slightly to 7.2 per cent, the National Bureau of Statistics data showed.

The Chinese economy grew at a surprisingly strong pace of 6.9 per cent through the first nine months of 2017, thanks to state-led spending. However, leadership under President Xi Jinping is trying to shift focus from speed to quality of growth.

“Looking ahead, we see further headwinds to economic activity from the cooling property sector and slowing credit growth,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, a senior China economist from Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

Alibaba smashes Singles’ Day record as online shopping festival goes global

China’s growth continues to be marked by a shift from investment to consumer spending, as consumers show a preference for online shopping and consumer credit.

In the past 11 months, online retail sales in China expanded 32.4 per cent from the same period in 2016 to 6.4 trillion yuan, or about 20 per cent of the total, from a ratio of 15 per cent one year earlier and 12 per cent two years earlier.

Data from the People’s Bank of China this week showed that short-term loans to households, mainly consumer credit, surged 202.5 billion yuan in November, accelerating from 79.1 billion yuan in October.