Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Alibaba rings in Singles Day, Pizza Hut gets drizzly

Eventually, you run out of places to stuff cheese


More like $$$ingles Day

Alibaba founder Jack Ma

November 11 is known as Singles Day in China, an occasion for anyone not in a relationship to celebrate singledom with other singletons. (It derives from the digits in the date: 11/11.) Like all special events anywhere in the world that once held meaning, Singles Day has devolved into an orgy of consumerism: It’s now the biggest online shopping day in the world. That’s great news for Alibaba Group Holdings, however, the country’s e-commerce juggernaut. On Tuesday, consumers in China purchased US$9.3 billion worth of goods through Alibaba’s main shopping platforms, Taobao and Tmall, a 60% jump over last year’s Singles Day. More than $1 billion of goods were transacted in the first 20 minutes, and American retailers such as Old Navy and Costco opened stores through Alibaba just weeks before the event in order to cash in. Alibaba faces the challenge of living up to the high expectations of investors and analysts after its IPO in September, but its shares have increased by more than 20% since then, and its $285 billion market cap exceeds that of Walmart by about $30 billion. So confident is Alibaba that on Tuesday, it even set up a giant screen on its campus to broadcast Singles Day sales to employees in real-time. Still, we wonder what happened to the true meaning of Singles Day. Remember when it was just about partying with your other sad sack single friends and you could forget for one night that your girlfriend left you and now you’re alone and no one will ever love you? That’s what it should be about.

 Pizza Hut

Need to raise some dough

Pizza Hut storefront

The pizza restaurant in-name-only announced a plan this week to turn around its declining sales. The plan, however, smells of desperation. (To be fair, that’s one step above the smell of a Pizza Hut.) The restaurant chain’s sales have fallen for eight straight quarters, even as competitors like Domino’s and Papa John’s have seen revenue increase. The company thinks it just hasn’t been fast enough in responding to the trend of customization in fast-casual dining. Customers at Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, have a great deal of choice over the ingredients they want in their faux-Mexican bean slop. McDonald’s recently vowed to give consumers more choice, too. Indeed, the centerpiece of Pizza Hut‘s plan, which also includes a new logo and new uniforms for its servers, is a revamped menu. “We know that American tastes and preferences are evolving,” said Wiley Bates III, the company’s global executive chef and man-who-has-never-tried-actual-pizza. “This new menu is designed to completely wow them.” Having apparently run out of places to stuff cheese, the company is introducing a range of flavoured crust options that includes Honey Sriracha, Get Curried Away, and Ginger Boom Boom. It’s also introducing four flavours of so-called “drizzles” for customers to squirt on their pies. Incidentally, “pizza drizzles” sounds like something you might contract after too many slices of BBQ Meatlovers.