Alibaba Sets Singles' Day Sales Record With 8 Hours Still to Go

Randal Sanchez
November 12, 2018

Even including the predicted Cyber Monday sales of $6.6 billion, the number is close to what Alibaba clocked in its Single's Day sales back in 2015.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba sold more than $US25.4 billion ($A25 billion) in goods in the first nine hours of "Singles' Day", the largest shopping day of the year.

A massive screen at Alibaba's gala in Shanghai showed the surging sales numbers in real time: At 2 minutes and 5 seconds after midnight, 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in purchases had been made on Alibaba's platforms.

This year's Singles' Day continued the trend of lavish showcases to drum up interest.

The event opened with a reported sale of over one-billion dollars in just two minutes. The tradition of Single's Day - meant to take pride in being single - was first recorded in Nanjing University as recently as 1993.

To maintain its edge, Alibaba has invested heavily in traditional retail outlets, such as its Hema supermarkets, and expanded in other online services, such as food delivery.

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Although retail sales in China have been steady, the outlook is uncertain as the economy slows and concerns rise over the impact of the trade war with the United States. "It's commerce but it's also entertainment, this is not necessarily people who are buying stuff that they need in life, it's a big festival, it's fun and there are good discounts".

Once a celebration for China's lonely hearts, Singles' Day is now a barometer for the country's consumers.

The gala was so huge that Alibaba founder Jack Ma chose to debut his 22-minute short film featuring A-list Chinese actors such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen there a year ago. Pinduoduo Inc., which is backed by archrival Tencent Holdings Ltd., and other smaller platforms are gaining traction with consumers and other companies have latched on to making 11 November a key promotional event with discounts on the day. "We have to continue to change to reach 300 billion or 500 billion", said Chief Executive Daniel Zhang, who is credited with being the architect of the original Singles' Day sale. At some point, when growth starts decelerating quickly, the event could change, to focus on one week's sales instead of one day's, or on something else entirely.

Alibaba kicked off this year's sales with a gala event that featured USA singer Mariah Carey, a Japanese Beyonce impersonator and a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The opening of 11.11 global shopping event was enlivened by performances featuring Mariah Carey, Cirque du Soleil and many more.

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