Retail

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day: The Aussie businesses doing it big in China

Matthew Elmas /

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder Jack Ma

Chinese shoppers turned out in droves for the 10th annual Singles’ Day shopping holiday, driving US$30.8 billion ($42.62 billion) in sales through Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.

Australian SMEs have once again managed to capture a decent chunk of the Chinese e-commerce pie, with usual suspects such as health supplements, milk products and produce emerging as popular products.

Overall, trade eclipsed last year to deliver a record result, with $2 billion in sales recorded in the first two minutes of Singles’ Day yesterday.

For Adam Wilkinson, chief executive of Australian bag brand Crumpler, recent investment in the region paid off yesterday.

“We really made a committed effort to be part of it and we got a good reaction,” he tells SmartCompany.

Crumpler has been investing heavily in international expansion recently, bedding down partnerships to open stores in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as an emerging presence in China.

Wilkinson said growth in the region has hit double-digits with a suitable partner on the ground in China helping the brand gain traction.

“They know the brand provides quality and value for money — it’s becoming known as a trusted brand,” Wilkinson explains.

This year was Singles’ Day’s 10th birthday, adding to the fanfare of the occasion, which is broadcast through Chinese live-streaming platforms to millions of viewers.

Demand for Australian consumer goods in China has driven a flurry of investment into Asia in recent years, with other businesses such as Chemist Warehouse and multi-vitamin giant Suisse capitalising.

Suisse was the most popular single brand on the platform, while Australian business Bio Island ranked fifth.

Owned by NSW-based JPX Pty. Ltd., Bio Island sellers a range of supplements through Alibaba’s Tmall platform.

Overall, Australia was the fourth most popular importer with shoppers yesterday, ahead of Spain, France, the UK and Germany.

Australian lamb sales were a particular bright spot, jumping 775% from last year in the first hour of the event.

“Today we witnessed the strength and rise of China’s consumption economy and consumers’ continued pursuit to upgrade their everyday lifestyles,” Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang said of the event in a statement.

Setting up shop in China

While the potential rewards of setting up shop in China are well known, establishing an operation has been a pain point for many Australian SMEs.

Wilkinson says it took Crumpler six to 12 months to find the right partner to handle its distribution, alongside e-commerce platforms like Tmall and JD.com.

“In the past, we tried to move into China directly, it’s quite cost prohibitive and we probably didn’t do enough marketing and building up the brand,” Wilkinson says.

“It’s something that’s taken a bit of time, but the key for us was finding the right partner.”

Crumpler also has a relationship with Alibaba-owned Lazada, a Southeast Asian e-commerce platform.

Wilkinson says the region-wide approach has cemented an awareness of the brand Crumpler has been able to convert into sales.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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