“Didn’t think we’d reached that far”: The Aussie SME making millions as Alibaba’s Singles’ Day clears $19 billion


DU'IT co-founder Pynith Char, with children Monique and Jarrad, and co-founder and wife Zina Richter (left to right). Source: supplied.

Aussie skincare company DU’IT is hoping to smash the $2.5 million in sales it made this time last year through Alibaba’s Singles’ Day event, as China-based shoppers buck global trade tensions to participate in the annual shopping holiday.

Kicking off this morning in Shanghai, the 11th anniversary of Alibaba’s November 11 shopping event has once again broken records, booking $91.2 billion yuan ($19 billion) in sales within an hour, an increase of about 32% from last year.

Hundreds of Aussie SMEs are in among the action, as shoppers relish big discounts on the Alibaba, Tmall and Taobao platforms, for everything from smartphones to skincare and supplements.

Family-owned DU’IT skincare is already trading strongly, Jarrad Char, sales manager and son of founders Zina Richter and Pynith Char, tells SmartCompany.

“It’s going really positively at the moment. It will be the biggest sales event of the whole year for us,” he says.

DU’IT’s hand and foot balms have proven popular with China-based shoppers, ranking number one for cross-border sales during the event last year, prompting the company to send even more stock over this year.

Jarrad, who is in China with sister Monique Char today keeping an eye on proceedings from a global export expo, admits to being surprised by the name recognition the company has built in mainland China since launching there five years ago.

“For an Aussie small business like ours, it’s important to see what’s going on at ground level in China,” Char says.

“The majority of people walking through our stand know what our product is and who we are. I didn’t think we’d reached that far.”

DU’IT has grown nine-fold since opening up exports to China, but Char says the market isn’t for the faint-hearted, with stiff competition from companies in Europe and the United States.

“It’s so competitive now — you really have to focus on having strategic service providers and working with credible government agencies,” Char says.

This year there’s an additional air of international controversy over the entire Singles’ Day affair, amid heightened political and economic tensions with the United States, and civil unrest in Hong Kong.

But initial disclosures and October survey figures indicate shoppers aren’t shying away from the event, with the number of customers saying they intend to spend at least $2,000 tripling.

Alibaba says it expects an additional 100 million customers to participate in the sale’s 11th anniversary, which would bring the number of shoppers browsing its platforms to over 500 million.

Getting a piece of the action

Looking to get in on the action? Char has some advice for other Aussie SMEs looking to get their foot in the door in China.

In short, build a local business first.

“It’s really important to get back to fundamentals,” Char says.

“Develop a product that works, don’t cut corners … [and] then you really need to build strong distribution in your own country.”

Char explains DU’IT has been helped immeasurably by its local business, which has generated brand recognition with China-based shoppers through its presence in Woolworths supermarkets and Chemist Warehouse.

“Category buyers come to Australia and look around for what brands are popular,” Char says.

Trying to brute-force the market open is a path fraught with high costs and higher risks, Char warns.

“It’s really difficult to get into China selling cold.”

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