Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

China’s Li Jiaqi, a top live-stream salesman widely known as the “lipstick brother,” sold $1.9bn in goods on the first day of Alibaba’s annual shopping festival, as the country’s consumers splash out despite an economic slowdown. 

Li, who earned his nickname by trying on various makeup products on his show, pre-sold 12-billion yuan in products ranging from Shiseido  lotions to Apple AirPods, according to preliminary data compiled by e-commerce data specialist Taosj.com. 

Li’s sales are a record for any show live-streamed on Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace, according to Taosj.com data. He has also survived a recent regulatory crackdown on androgynous pop idols and others who don’t conform to the country’s gender norms or express a more feminine style. 

Live-streaming is part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat — a format pioneered in China that’s grown more popular since the pandemic started. Li’s show Wednesday lasted a marathon 12 hours — the first day of China’s more than three-week “Singles’ Day” shopping binge — and attracted nearly 250-million views, Taobao showed.

“Normally we have about 20-million views a show daily, but we got 250-million today, all the girls, where are you emerging from?” Li said in a Weibo post.

Although the final sales from the presale show are likely to be lower as some shoppers cancel items ordered during the early session, the number demonstrates the growing strength of China’s innovative e-commerce sphere in the face of hurdles including ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. 

Viya, another top live-streamer, sold about 8-billion yuan worth of goods on the same day, in a show that lasted 14 hours, while another star, Cherie, had sales of about 1.2-billion yuan, according to Taosj.com.

An Alibaba spokesperson declined to comment on the sales data, and neither the company — or the live-streamers themselves — release such information.  

“The consumption enthusiasm is very rampant,” said Jason Yu, MD of research firm Kantar Worldpanel Greater China. “Top-tier live-streamers are getting more and more concentration in the market.”

Alibaba debuted Singles’ Day — which began as a shopping festival celebrating men and women who aren’t in relationships — in 2009. It has since been expanded to grow into a nationwide marathon of frantic bargain-hunting dwarfing US sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The 2020 edition posted sales of $75bn, a frenzy of Chinese consumption despite escalating regulatory scrutiny over the country’s internet sector.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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