NRF 2022: Will Chinese shopping festivals migrate to the U.S.?
At a 2022 NRF Big Show session, executives from JD.com and Authentic Brands Group (ABG) discussed the massive opportunity around shopping festivals in China and offered some insights into their potential for U.S. retailing.
The two best known Chinese shopping festivals are 6.18, held annually from June 1 to 18, and 11.11 or Singles Day, a 24-hour event held on November 11. At JD.com, both days last year generated about $50 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV).
“If you think of 6.18 or 11.11, it’s an excuse to shop,” said Nick Woodhouse, president and chief marketing officer at Authentic Brands Group, the brand management firm. He likened it to how Valentine’s Day drives flower sales in the U.S.
One difference is that numerous other shopping festivals are held throughout the year, driving the number of shopping occasions in China to about double the traditional U.S. shopping occasions, such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
The shopping action is also driven by a significantly more digitally-savvy Chinese consumer than even young U.S. counterparts.
Harlan Bratcher, global business development head, JD Fashion at JD.com, known as Jingdong locally, noted that 90 percent of JD.com’s sales are conducted on mobile phones. Said Mr. Bratcher, “Chinese are highly, highly mobile and digital.”
Aligned with that digital comfort, influencers are much more pervasive in China, driving discovery and purchases.
Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, who led the discussion, remarked on how shopping in China is similar to “entertainment and almost like a sport,” as well as highly social.
For U.S. retail, the addition of deal-driven events to the retail calendar could produce greater margin pressure, although many vendors highlight limited-edition or customized offerings for Chinese shoppers to attain premium prices.
In the U.S., shopping events such as the Fourth of July could be extended over weeks, similar to Chinese New Year. Existing festival days in China with a global stance, including International Women’s Day, were also seen having high potential in the U.S. “Any shopping festival or day that is not clearly created by a lobby I think has legs,” said Mr. Woodhouse.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could mobile and influencer-driven shopping events that mimic Chinese shopping festivals take off in the U.S.? How might they work differently?