Tech

On Alibaba's Singles Day, Chinese shoppers are set to splurge on foreign brands as fewer travel overseas

Key Points
  • Foreign imported products will be a big hit with Chinese consumers during the massive annual Singles Day shopping event, a senior Alibaba executive told CNBC.
  • Chinese shoppers who would have bought foreign brands while outside the country are turning to online purchases since many will not be traveling this year.
  • The Chinese e-commerce giant is gearing up for Singles Day, the annual 24-hour shopping event that takes place on Nov. 11 where billions of dollars are spent snapping up items on Alibaba's platform.
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Chinese demand for U.S. brands is still huge: Alibaba's Tmall Global

HANGZHOU, China — Foreign imported products will be a big hit with Chinese consumers during the massive annual Singles Day shopping event this year given the majority will not be traveling outside mainland China due to the coronavirus pandemic, a senior Alibaba executive told CNBC.

Chinese shoppers who would have usually bought foreign brands during their holidays abroad are turning to online purchases, according to Alvin Liu, the president of Alibaba's Tmall import and export business.

Tmall is Alibaba's main platform in China where shoppers can buy imported items. The Chinese e-commerce giant is gearing up for Singles Day, the annual 24-hour shopping event that takes place on Nov. 11 where billions of dollars of items are purchased on Alibaba's platform.

"I think the import product will have ... big business this year for Singles Day," Liu told CNBC in an interview which aired Friday.

"As you know there is no global travel, so Chinese people stay within mainland China but they still prefer to buy all kinds of the high-quality products overseas. I think Singles Day is the best timing for them to buy a lot of things."

Singles Day, also referred to as Double 11, sees Chinese e-commerce companies from Alibaba to JD.com push heavy discounts over a 24-hour window. Gross merchandise value, a figure that shows sales across Alibaba's shopping platforms, stood at 268.4 billion yuan (nearly $40 billion) last year.

This year, Alibaba is trying to increase the number of foreign brands participating. Tmall will bring more than 2,600 new overseas brands to China for the first time, Alibaba said.

Patriotic buying?

But even with the push toward boosting the number of foreign brands, Chinese consumers may be looking to domestic items instead. A recent survey from AlixPartners showed 66% of Chinese consumers said that they'll be shopping for domestic brands instead of foreign labels. Nearly a third cited "patriotism" as their reason for buying local.

A screen displays the transaction volume of the 24-hour Alibaba Singles' Day global shopping festival at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, China, November 12, 2019.
Reuters

Tensions between China and a few other countries such as the U.S. and Australia have been on the rise.

Fifty-seven percent of Chinese consumers plan to spend less money on American products this year, AlixPartners' survey showed.

But Liu dismissed those findings, and said this is unlikely to happen. He suggested that Chinese shoppers still want high-quality foreign products.

"I think there is no big change ... so we see the Chinese consumers still prefer to buy all kinds of products from the whole world. For sure, (the) U.S. is still one choice for them and we also see huge demand for U.S. — all kinds of categories ... for example healthcare, supplement, food and the beauty products," Liu told CNBC.

He did say, however, that there were a lot of new brands coming to Tmall that are from mainland China.