China Consumer

Bargains galore

All eyes are on June 18 e-commerce event for signals on consumer spending

JDcom-w

Could raise as much as $4.3 billion from a secondary listing in Hong Kong

China’s second-largest e-commerce firm JD.com is embarking on a secondary listing in Hong Kong. The e-commerce giant – which is already listed on Nasdaq – could raise as much as $4.3 billion from the sale, which is likely to be one of the largest public offerings in the city this year.

JD.com says it expects to debut the shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on June 18, the company’s anniversary and the same day as its annual shopping bonanza. Though lesser known than Singles’ Day, ‘618’ is China’s biggest mid-year shopping festival.

This year the sales extravaganza is going to be even more important for the Chinese economy. As countries across the world grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic, the results will be a telling barometer of consumer confidence in China. It also offers an important opportunity for e-commerce firms to spot the latest trends and identify areas for growth in the months ahead.

“This year’s 618 battle is going to be fiercer than ever… Since the first quarter’s sales were affected by the pandemic, all the e-commerce platforms are hoping that the recovery of consumer confidence will lift their performance in the second quarter,” commented Entertainment Unicorn. “All the e-commerce platforms are embracing 618 with the same enthusiasm as Singles’ Day.”

Given that livestreaming was one of the few bright spots for online sales during the Covid-19 outbreak (see WiC494), it should come as less of a surprise that 618 is already sizing up to be a battle of the best of the livestreaming stars. Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform has invited 300 celebrities and 600 company executives to host livestreaming sessions that sell products (joining Taobao Live’s massively popular streamers Viya and Li Jiaqi). “It seems like the goal of Tmall this summer is to take all our money – from our Alipay account,” Entertainment Industry mused.

Pinduoduo, which recently surpassed JD.com in stock market value, is also going to offer steep discounts (on top of its existing sales subsidies) to lure more consumers on 618. To generate buzz, it has increased its spending on livestreaming by hiring CCTV show hostess Zhou Tao to promote products. There’s also a new broadcast partnership with Hunan Satellite TV on the night of June 17, which will be livestreamed to attract shoppers.

This year’s 618 coincides with the 17th anniversary of the founding of JD.com and the e-commerce firm says it will give out billions of yuan of sales incentives and discounts. It has likewise tapped hundreds of celebrities to go on its own livestreaming platform and it is also collaborating with short video platform Kuaishou for the event. The partnership makes sense: Kuaishou, which has made enormous headway in e-commerce livestreaming, needs a well-established partner to support its new sales effort, while JD needs more livestreaming content (see WiC490).

“Even though JD.com’s livestreaming platform has accelerated, it still lacks key livestreamers. Collaborating with JD.com is also consistent with Kuaishou’s strategy of moving upmarket [most of Kuaishou’s users are in lower-tier cities] and courting big consumer brands,” reckoned Entertainment Unicorn.

In late May, JD.com grabbed further attention when it purchased $100 million worth of convertible bonds in Gome, the electronics retailer. The investment came just four months after Pinduoduo had also subscribed for $200 million of Gome’s convertible bonds (see WiC493).

DoNews, a tech blog, reckons that Gome – which has a network of over 2,600 stores in China – has taken the investment from both e-commerce platforms because it doesn’t want to rely too much on either one. For JD.com, the investment in Gome could improve its edge over Alibaba in sales of consumer electronics and home appliances. By joining forces the pair will also have more bargaining power with manufacturers.

Delivery costs also come into consideration. “The investment means that the two can collaborate when it comes to logistics. JD.com’s huge warehouses cover the whole country but they are widely dispersed. On the other hand, Gome has warehouses mainly in the cities. So collaboration between the two parties could lower the cost of logistics and improve the efficiency of their distribution systems,” says DoNews.

But back to 618. Industry observers worry that large ‘bargain’ shopping events like Singles’ Day and 618 have lost their meaning at a time when platforms and brands are already offering steep discounts on a regular basis, often through special sales via livestreaming.

“Every day there are discounts so why wait for a certain day to shop? This is why the warm-up periods for the promotional festivals are getting longer and longer. The promotional methods are also increasingly inseparable from livestreaming,” reported Entertainment Industry.

Others hope that sales over the 618 season will be resilient, because of the longlasting lockdown earlier this year. One shopper from Xi’an told 21CN Business Herald that she was already using the biggest of the discounts to stock up on daily necessities. “I definitely feel the urge to shop more than ever. It’s like unleashing all the pent-up shopping desire over the last few months,” she told the newspaper.

Other consumers also seem eager to leave the lockdown behind and get outdoors. According to figures from Tmall, the Alibaba platform, sales in its sports and outdoors categories shot through Rmb100 million in just 45 seconds on the first day of this month. Similarly, sales of women’s apparel crossed the Rmb100 million mark in two minutes.

JD.com reported something similar, saying that apparel transactions on its platform went up 500% year-on-year in the first hour of June.


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