If money is happiness, everyone is happy in China on Singles’ Day. Alibaba enjoyed record sales this year totaling 213.5 billion yuan (US$30.7 billion), up 27%, in China’s answer to Black Friday in the US.
The 24-hour Singles Day is believed to twice the amount of money spent by American consumers on Black Friday ($8 billion) and Cyber Monday ($6.6 billion).
Over 30 brands from Adidas to Xiaomi recorded 100 million yuan in sales in the first 30 minutes with Xiaomi ending up with a 5.2 billion yuan in sales at the end of the day.
But what is not known is how brands such as Abibas sports shoes, Star Wnrs toys and wine Jack David have fared in the world’s largest shopping day.
All these are counterfeit items that went on sale in Alibaba’s Taobao website that offered a similar product to global brands such as Adidas, Star Wars and Jack Daniels but at a significant discount.
According to AFP, a pair of “Abibas” trainers was available at a mother-watering price of 39 yuan, or a fraction of the retail price of the German sports giant’s shoes.
Ditto for “Balenciaca” sneakers, fake Louis Vuitton bags and Lepin (Lego’s box), all of which were manufactured in such a way that few could tell the difference.
Counterfeiting in China is said to cost Europe 60 billion euros (US$67.9 billion) a year and 434,000 jobs, according to the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.
The issue of intellectual property was at the centre of Sino-American trade talks in which President Xi Jinping pledged last week that the nation would strengthen protection and crackdown on IP theft.
Alibaba said it requires all merchants to respect IP rights and has stepped up efforts to take down listings of counterfeit products.
Last year Alibaba filed 48 lawsuits against counterfeiters. The number of requests to take down listings saw an annual decline of 44% between September 2017 and August 2018.
China has grown to be the world’s No-2 economy at the expense of other developed economies. When Alibaba first started its Singles Days campaign in 1999, it only recorded 52 million yuan in sales.
Alibaba Group deputy chairman Joe Tsai said: “China’s GDP per capita was about $800 per person back in 1999 when I joined the company, and has risen to about $9,000 per person today, an average across 1.3 billion people.
“Is it going to $20,000, $30,000 in the future? Absolutely, it’s happening.”
Let’s just hope that the growth is China is more than its level of innovation.