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Korean retailers sell big on China’s Singles’ Day

Korean retailers enjoyed a sales windfall on Friday, the unofficial Chinese holiday of Guanggun Jie, or Singles‘ Day, as Chinese consumers flocked to the internet in search of a deal.

According to the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant, Korea saw the third-largest volume of sales to China on Friday, following Japan and the United States.

A sign shows the total gross merchandise volume for the Singles‘ Day Global Shopping Festival on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. (Alibaba)
A sign shows the total gross merchandise volume for the Singles‘ Day Global Shopping Festival on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. (Alibaba)

Alibaba is behind the massive popularity of Guanggun Jie, by moving it away from the original anti-Valentine’s Day significance to a day of retail therapy.

The most popular Korean product sold to Chinese consumers on Friday was facial sheet masks with sales of over 10 million units, surpassing last year‘s record just three hours into the shopping event. The product is hugely popular among Chinese tourists shopping at duty free stores here.

A notable trend was that the top-selling brands were not part of the giant AmorePacific or LG Household & Healthcare umbrellas, but smaller brands such as A.H.C., Leaders and Jayjun.

“AmorePacific and LG H&H are both sellers, and even have their own specialized page, but smaller brands have outpaced them in terms of sales both last year and this year,” a spokeswoman from Alibaba’s public relations agency FleishmanHillard, told The Korea Herald.

Although cosmetics and personal care is the leading category for Korean sellers, other categories have also benefited from access to the wider Chinese consumer market.

Fashion group E-land‘s Chinese arm said Sunday that its brands had reached 329 million yuan ($48 million) in revenue on Friday alone, an 89 percent on-year increase. Kitchenware brand Lock & Lock also saw a 19 percent increase in sales, reaching 31 million yuan. Korea’s discount retailers Lotte Mart and E-mart also landed on the Top 20 sellers list.

This year’s Guanggun Jie Global Shopping Festival on Alibaba’s global online marketplace Tmall reached a gross merchandise volume of 120.7 billion yuan, far outperforming other global shopping events, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Over 80 percent of all transactions were completed on mobile devices. The festival, which began in 2009, saw a 32 percent on-year increase in its total merchandise sales from last year.

“This year’s 11.11 is a preview of the future of retail, where entertainment, commerce and interactive engagement intersect seamlessly,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, through a statement.

Korean companies must be a seller on Tmall in order to participate in the Global Shopping Festival, meaning that they must have already entered the Chinese market or contracted with a local agency to sell in China. Alibaba declined to disclose the exact number of Korean companies that participated in the festival this year.

By Won Ho-jung (