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ONLINE RETAIL SALES

Strong start to 9.9 sales event keeps businesses upbeat on e-tailing

Food and consumer products fly off shelves for mega e-commerce event; e-tailers optimistic about Singles Day, Black Friday and 12.12 up ahead

Lazada
Lazada Singapore also started a pilot program with Singapore’s largest taxi operator, ComfortDelgro 7 , to train and tap on their drivers and vehicles to deliver groceries to consumers.

Singapore

DESPITE the economic uncertainty, e-commerce players say they remain upbeat about the online retail landscape, given that preliminary data from this year's 9.9 (Sept 9) sales appear better than last year's.

Lazada customers had a headstart at its 9.9 LazMall Big Brands Sale, which kicked off at midnight on Wednesday, offering products from electronics to sportswear.

Lazada Singapore's chief executive James Chang told The Business Times: "We saw sales in the first two hours double that of the first two hours of last year."

Over at Qoo10, overall site transactions as at 6pm on Wednesday had already surpassed last year's numbers by 25 per cent.

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Sam Too, Qoo10's general manager, told BT that he was expecting sales to spike in the last two hours of the day due to local shoppers' penchant for last-minute shopping. He projects an increase of 34 per cent over 2019's 9.9 event.

Across the major e-commerce retailers, the most popular items appeared to be food, beauty products, electronic gadgets and home appliances.

Qoo10 shoppers were gunning for Jollibean's S$0.99 pancake set, K-pop online concert tickets, Apple's AirPods Pro and mooncakes, Mr Too said.

Apple's AirPods Pro also proved popular at Shopee; it was the top product sold at the site as at noon. Shoppers also snapped up diapers, Xiaomi's new mobile offering Poco X3 and mooncakes.

Pioneered by Shopee in 2016, the concept of the 9.9 sale is adapted from China's Singles' Day mega sale event on Nov 11. This year's 9.9 sale coincides with the Great Singapore Sale, which has gone online for the first time in its history.

Amid the flurry of activity however, it was business as usual at Amazon's Singapore site on Wednesday. However, the American retail giant could be gearing up for its Prime Day sale, which a CNBC report has said could take place next month due to coronavirus-related delays.

Meanwhile, there are at least three more mega sales events for the rest of the year - Singles Day, Black Friday and 12.12 - and e-commerce players say they are optimistic about business in the months ahead based on what they have seen so far.

Lazada's Mr Chang said June clocked the highest sales for a single month, thanks to the company's Mid-Year Festival event. Coming in second place was August, from the 8.8 National Day Sale. "As we go into the slate of year-end sales, we foresee continued strong demand with greater familiarity with e-commerce among consumers and brands getting creative with an omnichannel approach to commerce," he said.

ezbuy's chief executive Wendy Liu said more consumers are shopping online this year because "visiting physical stores is still somewhat inconvenient". "This year we see many retail shops also hosting online sales, which help to drive traditional shoppers used to physical sales to go online," she said.

"More ads are running on Facebook too, from both e-commerce platforms and brands. We have observed a Facebook cost-per-impression rise of about 40 per cent these few days compared to in August," she added.

But economists attribute Singaporeans' enthusiasm for online shopping at this time to the lack of travel opportunities as a result of the pandemic.

Walter Theseira, an economist at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said: "Singaporean households spend over S$300 a month on travel normally, says the household expenditure survey, and I think people have been looking for other consumption opportunities."

He added that while there may be a boost to online spending this year, it may simply be compensating for sales that would otherwise have occurred in brick-and-mortar stores, which have taken a hit.

Selena Ling, OCBC's chief economist, said: "It is mostly opportunistic consumption due to the heavy discounting to drive sales, so we cannot do a linear extrapolation that this trend will sustain till year end."

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