Taylor Swift

TAYLOR MADE: This year’s Alibaba’s Singles’ Day countdown gala will be headlined by singer Taylor Swift, the tech giant has announced, and will once again be held at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The annual live-broadcasted event is always a packed occasion that attracts a lineup of international and local celebrities. Singers from across the Asia region will also be joining Swift on the stage including EXO boy band member Lay Zhang, along with performers such as G.E.M., Hua Chenyu, Kana Hanazawa, Ju Jingyi, Li Ronghao, Luo Yunxi, Jackson Yee and Jason Zhang.

In the past, Alibaba has invited Pharrell Williams, who penned and performed a much-panned ode to Jack Ma for Singles’ Day, and model Miranda Kerr who showed off her singing skills, as well as sports stars such as David Beckham, Maria Sharapova and Kobe Bryant.

While pre-sales for the world’s biggest shopping festival have already started, the show is designed to help consumers stay up and entertained until midnight, when the shopping event officially kicks off.

Around 200,000 brands are participating and 1 million new products are on offer this year. Alibaba said it expects more than 500 million users to participate, about 100 million more than last year. This is despite the protracted trade war between the U.S. and China, and latest China GDP figures for the third quarter that slowed to 6 percent, the slowest gain in nearly three decades.

A survey by consulting firm AlixPartners that spoke to more than 2,000 consumers across the country one month prior to the nationwide shopping festival indicated that consumers were preparing to increase their Singles’ Day spend, not pull back. Consumers from tier 1 and tier 2 cities say they are preparing to spend 54 percent more this year, or an average of 6,265 renminbi. Meanwhile, 57 percent of consumers estimate their spending will exceed 5,000 renminbi this year with 18 percent of those consumers estimating they will spend more than 10,000 renminbi.

Last year’s Singles’ Day gross merchandise volume reached $30.8 billion outstripping the online revenues Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday to Cyber Monday combined.

“This is truly a mainstream event. Consumers are no longer looking for out-of-style discount goods, but instead they expect new, relevant, quality products at a low price and good service — and they want to be entertained,” said Michael McCool, managing director of AlixPartners. “Businesses need to get in on the action if they are not already selling during Singles’ Day. The event has become a barometer of a brand’s presence in the market. For businesses already participating, they need to put out exciting and new items for sale; this is no longer a channel to clear your old inventory.”

Consumers expressed plans to make majority of their purchases, or 61 percent, from local brands during the Singles’ Day sale, AlixPartners’ survey also found. Foreign brands, while not preferred per se, are expected to increase from 27 percent of market share last year to 30 percent this year as consumers continue to trade up in product quality, design and trustworthy manufacturing and sources.

In addition, 78 percent of respondents, motivated by national loyalty, said they would reconsider purchasing American brands due to the trade war.

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