Singles' Day's one big downside? It's too good

Singles Day a disaster for Chinese e-commerce: Pro

Record orders on Singles' Day, the world's largest 24-hour e-commerce phenomenon, are widely hailed as proof of mainland consumer strength. But for one analyst, the event's sheer success is a problem.

"I think it's a disaster for the Chinese consumer industry because people aggregate and delay their purchases until this day," Hao Hong, chief research strategist and managing director of research at Bank of Communications International, told CNBC on Wednesday.

From Alibaba to JD.com, portals are offering steep discounts to lure buyers. Several sites also engage in early bird promotions to drive more traffic to their sites and lock in purchases; techniques that are reflected in Alibaba's stratospheric Singles' Day sales volume In the first eight minutes of this year's sale, the firm generated more than $1 billion in sales and after the first hour, it had secured $3.9 billion.

By around 1pm in China on Wednesday, it had eclipsed its 2014 record sales result of $9.3 billion.

While impressive, such results ultimately point to a worrying longer-term outlook, Hao said.

"Online sales platform are taking over and consolidating the retail space so in that way, I think it's actually putting disinflationary pressure on headline retail sales ... it's not necessarily all good news."

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He added: "If you remember the lesson from the national Golden Week holiday, tourism destinations are jam packed with people travelling at the same time. I don't think it's a pretty thing so I'm a lot less excited than the consensus [about Singles' Day]."

Workers sort out goods bought by customers online at a deliver center in Hangzhou on Nov. 9, 2015
Xinhua | Huang Zongzhi | Getty Images

Still, economic data released on Wednesday pointed to healthy consumer demand. October retail sales rose by a stronger-than-expected 11 percent on-year, in line with consistent double-digit annual increases throughout the year.

Indeed, majority opinion about the holiday was broadly positive on Wednesday.

"No matter how pessimistic people seem to be about China, this kind of growth is incredible," said Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, an early investor in Alibaba, referring to Wednesday's early results.

"Even if the Chinese economy is slowing down, e-commerce is taking off."

But Hao isn't entirely alone in his pessimism. For some small retailers, the fierce competition on China's e-commerce sites can be offputting.

Jensen Wolfe, founder of children's product The Little Yoga Mat, told CNBC on Wednesday that Alibaba's Tmall site was tricky for small businesses owners like herself.

Being a small U.S. business on the site, the sheer volume of merchants made it difficult to gain a presence without shelling out more money on advertising, she explained.