The Chinese online shopping fest known as Singles’ Day set a new record this year, raking in $30.7 billion (213.5 billion yuan) in just 24 hours.

But, while that figure was up 27% on the previous year and makes the 24-hour Alibaba-hosted sale bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, it disguises subdued sentiment among consumers, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

That growth rate was actually the slowest since the Singles’ Day was launched in 2009, and a dramatic slowdown on last year’s growth of 39%.

Chinese consumers are holding back from buying bigger-ticket items, even when there are deep discounts on offer, analysis showed. And shopping patterns have been affected by less-than-rosy economic forecasts, observers said. Reuters also noted the effect of competing events organised by rivals such as

A slowing property market, in particular, hit the sale of more expensive home appliances, said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba CEO, commenting on Singles’ Day sales. Smartphone buying had also flatlined, he said, putting this down to a lack of innovation in the sector.

On top of this, the average individual Singles’ Day order size by value seems to have shrunk: Nikkei calculations showed the average value of each basket was down from 207.1 yuan last year to 204.9 yuan in 2018.

The figures mirror the current “lack of consumer confidence” in China, according to Wang Dan, an analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. “The macro-environment has been bad since last year,” Wang said, with jobs and household income both under increasing pressure.

The higher total sales on Singles’ Day may not indicate any change in consumer sentiment because many people may have postponed purchases in order to take advantage of the big discounts on offer, she added.

More sales from overseas consumers and those in rural China, relatively new to e-commerce, also boosted the numbers.

But Chinese consumers are still happy to fork out on health and beauty products in particular, with functional food, facial masks, skin creams and make-up remover among the top ten categories showing the highest sales on Singles’ Day.

For buyers overseas, the focus was clothes made in China. Most in demand were dresses, trousers, woollen coats, hoodies and sweaters.

Sourced from Nikkei Asian Review, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff