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March 30, 2023

Global holiday shopping season makes strong early start

Macro commentary by eToro analyst for Romania, Bogdan Maioreanu


With the US Black Friday happening this week, Singles Day, the recent Chinese shopping festival is giving us a glimpse into the shopping season’s future.

The combined sales of the two ecommerce giants, Alibaba and JD.com increased 16%, pointing toward a bigger holiday shopping spree this year.

The trend of strong ecommerce sales is visible also in Romania. Black Friday 2021, according to Emag, the largest online retailer, brought a 27% increase in the number of products ordered which reached 2.2 million with total sales amounting to more than 600 Million RON, a 24 million RON increase compared with 2020. The Romanian “Black Friday” continues for other retailers until the end of November.

Singles Day, or Double 11 – because it happens on 11.11 every year – is an unofficial Chinese holiday and shopping season that celebrates people that are not in a relationship. The event is not an officially recognized public holiday in China, although it has become the largest offline and online shopping day in the world. This Singles Day, e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) had sales of 84.5 Billion dollars, an 8.5% increase compared with the exceptional 2020. Rival JD.com (JD) however, posted much more impressive sales of 49 Billion USD, a 28.6% increase compared with 2020. Their combined sales increased to more than 133 Billion dollars, a 16% year on year increase. Singles Day 2020 increased Alibaba sales with 85% compared with 2019 making this year 8.5% increase to appear very low.

Singles Day may be a sign of how the season of shopping might look in the rest of the world. Beside increasing sales we might see increasing prices. The China factory gate prices increased in October with 13.5%, accelerating from 10.7% in September, according to the China National Bureau of Statistics. Beside the increase in energy prices, the electricity interruptions are halting the production of goods, extending the production cycle and increasing the production costs. In addition to the increased prices, the delivery of the latest models of phones sold during the fest might take weeks due to supply chain issues and the computer chips crisis.

On the other side of the Pacific, Black Friday, traditionally the largest shopping day in the United States, which is happening this week, will be followed by Cyber Monday, with e-commerce giants like Amazon (AMZN) hoping to set new records. But we have already seen confirmation that this year the shopping season started early, with Retail sales increasing in October with 1.7%.The largest increase in sales were given by online stores – 4% followed by electronics and appliance stores – 3.8% showing that shoppers are already buying the gifts.

The “Global Black Friday Forecast” survey showed that there is some confusion amongst shoppers on how to best navigate these Holidays shopping challenges – 30 percent said they will shop sooner than expected, and another 30 percent said they will shop later to wait and see what happens. “Consumers are making conscious tradeoffs between discounts and getting the items they want,” said Joanna Perey, director in Simon-Kucher’s consumer goods & retail practice. “Those shopping earlier are less price sensitive and more focused on making sure they get the items they want, while those who wait longer are more driven by discounts.”

This trend of increased shopping before the traditional shopping season is manifesting itself in Europe too, with the UK reporting a rise of 0.8% of retail sales versus the prior month. These beat forecasts on signs that Christmas shopping is starting early this year, with consumer wallets healthy and supply-chain worries high. The retail recovery accelerated from the flat, 0% growth level of the prior month and sales are now 6% above pre-pandemic levels. Non-food such as clothing, toys, and sporting goods led the way as Christmas started early for many. Some retail cheer is a good omen for the continued UK growth rebound, with private consumption making up over 60% of the economy. This seems set to continue, with retail spending forecast up a strong 8% this November and December versus last year.


Bogdan Maioreanu, eToro analyst and markets commentator, has over 20 years of experience in financial services and investments and a strong background in journalism. He held different Corporate Banking management positions in both Raiffeisen Bank and OTP Bank, before moving to business consultancy roles working for IBM Romania among others. Bogdan is an Executive MBA from Asebuss and Washington University.


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