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China’s Singles’ Day buoys Korean retailers

Nov 13,2017
Korean retailers are filled with hope as frozen trade relations between Korea and China showed signs of thawing during China’s Singles’ Day, billed as China’s Black Friday, which fell on Saturday.

The Chinese arm of Korea’s retail and fashion conglomerate E-Land raked in 456 million yuan ($68.6 million) in sales through Alibaba’s Tmall website on Singles’ Day, the company said Sunday. The revenue is 39 percent more than last year’s 329 million yuan. The Korean retailer, which operates 19 shops on Tmall including fashion brands Prich and Scofield, was the top earner on the website for the third consecutive year.

Gmarket’s foreign direct purchase platform “Global Shopping” also saw sales jump by 106 percent during the Singles’ Day event, according to company figures. The largest sales increase was in childcare products including diapers, milk powder and baby food, which soared by 270 percent year on year. Sales for stationery and Korean entertainment-related goods increased by 61 percent compared to the previous year.

Hyundai Hmall, an online shopping platform operated by Hyundai Department Store, also saw sales increase by 96 percent during its Singles’ Day promotion period from Nov. 1 through Nov. 10 at the company’s Global Hmall website.

“Purchases from Chinese customers shrank in the latter half of last year … but expectations that conflict over Korea’s deployment of the U.S.-led antimissile system is coming to an end have pushed up revenue and the number of Chinese consumers using our platform,” a spokesperson from Hyundai Hmall said. According to the company, the portion of Chinese consumers among all shoppers fell to roughly 50 percent right after the Thaad issue broke, but the ratio has recovered to 70 percent so far this month.

Even the Chinese media is warming up to Korea. During a segment on how companies are preparing for Singles’ Day on Nov. 11, state-run media agency CCTV opted to broadcast live from Galleria Duty Free’s logistics center. It is the first time that Chinese media has promoted a Korean company since relations soured over the Thaad issue, according to industry sources.

Galleria’s Chinese online platform saw sales increase by 10 percent year-on-year during the festival.

Korea ranked fifth in terms of sales during this year’s Singles’ Day festivities, slipping two places from last year behind Japan, the United States, Australia and Germany, according to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Despite the lower ranking, industry insiders say that the performance still signals a positive outlook on future trade relations between Korea and China.

“We are not yet sensing an abrupt surge in customer demand from China, but we are getting ready for it,” said a spokesperson from Asiana Airlines, a Korean airline that has been dependent on flights connecting Korea and China.

During China’s largest shopping holiday, Alibaba hit a new record of 168.2 billion yuan in sales, up 39 percent compared to the previous year. Roughly 140,000 brands participated.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]