As a means of stimulating depressed eCommerce volume, China’s Alibaba Group is launching an online shopping festival with 1 billion yuan ($144 million) in spending subsidies to offset the impact of the Coronavirus, the company announced on Thursday (March 5), Reuters reported.
The move comes as Alibaba grapples with a fall-off in consumer spending in China, which remains in a “state of semi-quarantine” as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic.
The online retail giant accounts for two-thirds of all goods bought and sold online in China.
Alibaba’s previous shopping festival on Nov. 11 – known as Singles Day, or Double 11 – brought in a record 268 billion yuan ($38.3 billion) in purchases. The world’s largest shopping event is an annual ritual.
During the 2018 festival, Alibaba’s sales volume grew 27 percent to 213.5 billion yuan, equivalent to $30.7 billion at the time. Purchases grew 26 percent during the 2019 event. More merchandise is sold online over the 24-hour period than during the five-day U.S. holiday buying spree that begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Cyber Monday.
In other Alibaba news, its Co-founder Jack Ma donated $2.15 million through the Jack Ma Foundation to fund the acceleration of a Coronavirus vaccine. The foundation signed an agreement with the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia to establish treatment options and vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.
The Doherty Institute – a collaboration between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – was the first to successfully grow the Coronavirus in a lab, an accomplishment that provided a global understanding of the virus.
“While the path to creating a vaccine is complex, we have the expertise and infrastructure here at the Doherty Institute to take on this task, and now, thanks to the Jack Ma Foundation, the funding to accelerate this significant project,” said Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the institute.
In February, Alibaba said it made 20 billion yuan ($2.86 billion) available in loans via its affiliate, Ant Financial’s MYBank, to help companies affected by the Coronavirus.