Chemist Warehouse: “This is definitely our biggest online event”


Singles Day has become the biggest online event of the year for Australian pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse.

The company saw 100 million RMB ($20.8 million) in sales on Alibaba platforms in just three hours and 15 minutes on November 11, the Chinese sales event known as Singles Day. Last year, it took the company just under seven hours to achieve the same figure.

Nancy Jian, COO of Chemist Warehouse’s China division, attributed the growth to the retailer’s new storefront on Netease Kaola, an online marketplace for overseas brands that Alibaba acquired in September, and the opening of its first bricks-and-mortar store in China last month.

“It was packed with people and customers had to line up to get into the store. We believe the potential will be huge here,” Jian said about the store, where the retailer kicked off its Singles Day campaign last weekend.

Chemist Warehouse also offered Singles Day discounts through Tmall Global, Alibaba’s initial cross-border site, where the retailer remains the largest international merchant.

“The environment has been quite different to last year,” Jian told Inside Retail, noting that Chemist Warehouse did more live streaming to drive traffic and sales this year, rather than just relying on the platforms to drive traffic.

“Our team did [a] live-streaming marathon leading to Singles Day, and we also worked with a lot of KOL [key opinion leaders] to push more sales,” she said. KOLs are like social media influencers in China.

On a sales-per-hour or per-store basis, Singles Day is now the biggest campaign of the year for Chemist Warehouse, though Christmas and Boxing Day in Australia are still bigger overall, according to Jian.

“It is definitely fascinating to see sales like this in such a short period of time,” she said.

Alibaba generated a total of 268.4 billion RMB (US$38.4 billion) of gross merchandise volume through its Singles Day sale this year, and broke US$1 billion in sales in the first minute.

Australia was the fourth most popular seller by GMV on the e-commerce giant’s cross-border platforms, after Japan, United States and South Korea. This was driven primarily by popular food and health brands, such as Blackmores, A2 and Bubs.

Chemist Warehouse saw the biggest growth in its beauty and personal care and baby product categories.

Singles Day increasingly celebrated Down Under

Singles Day is said to have originated among male students at Nanjing University in the early 1990s. The date November 11 was selected to be a reverse Valentine’s Day, when single people would treat themselves and each other to gifts and activities.

Alibaba first marked the holiday with a sale in 2009, and today it’s the biggest shopping event globally. Increasingly, it also is being celebrated outside China.

For instance, Superdry offered 11 per cent off items store- and site-wide on November 11.

The brand, which is operated by Brand Collective in Australia and New Zealand, ran advertising in both English and Mandarin across Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and Weibo that actively targeted Asian-Australians.

“While the sale primarily targeted Asian-Australians and tourists, it also delighted Australians who are unaware of the event,” Matt Iozzi, PR and marketing manager of Superdry, told Inside Retail.

According to Iozzi, Superdry saw a 380 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue on Singles Day this year, and a 600 per cent year-on-year increase in transactions.

The biggest increase came from targeting a segmented database, Iozzi said, which resulted in an 847 per cent year-on-year increase in email revenue.

“We see Singles Day as an official warm up to the sales season and another opportunity for retailers to capitalise off both a local and a tourist dollar,” Iozzi said, noting that it doesn’t stack up to Black Friday or Boxing Day for the sportswear brand.

“With more and more retailers closing their doors than ever before within Australia, we welcome Singles Day and other sale events as opportunities.”

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