JD.com racks up $38B in sales in annual online shopping fest

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Xu Lei, head of JD Retail, second from left, sounds the gong to mark the listing of JD.com on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange at the JD.com headquarters in Beijing on Thursday, June 18, 2020. Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com's stock jumped nearly 6% on its debut in Hong Kong on Thursday after the firm raised $3.9 billion in a share sale. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

HONG KONG – JD.com's annual “618” online shopping extravaganza racked up a total of 269.2 billion yuan ($38 billion) worth of transactions, as consumers splurged during China's first major e-commerce sale since the pandemic began.

This year's tally was 33% higher than last year's 201.5 billion yuan in sales. It reflects an increasing shift to online shopping as consumers shun brick-and-mortar stores.

The “618” shopping event, which typically spans from June 1 to June 18, was first conceived by JD.com to rival Alibaba's November 11 Singles' Day festival. It is being closely watched as a barometer of consumer appetites for spending given pressures from the pandemic. China’s economy contracted for the first time in nearly three decades during the first quarter of this year.

Imported goods remained popular among JD.com customers, who snapped up luxury products, electric shavers and coffee machines. Some of the most popular brands among customers were Apple, Panasonic, Sony and Philips, the company said.

Over 70% of new customers who bought items during the sale also came from smaller regional cities, it said.

Although the 618 shopping extravaganza is held by JD.com, rivals Alibaba and Pinduoduo and other Chinese retailers are also offering discounts.

This year, JD.com doubled down on live-streaming e-commerce, offering 300,000 live-streams over nearly three weeks that allowed buyers to interact with sellers and influencers in real-time and purchase products without ever leaving the video stream. To boost sales, the company also provided 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) in subsidies on top of big discounts and coupons for consumers.

Sales of daily necessities and fresh produce are growing quickly both in China’s big cities and in smaller ones, while home appliances have fared less well, Xu Lei, chief executive of JD Retail, said in an interview in Beijing on Thursday.