Shanghai (Reuters): Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, said on Saturday its Singles’ Day sales extravaganza hit $25.4 billion, smashing its own record from last year and cementing it as the world’s biggest shopping event.
Once a celebration for China’s lonely hearts, Singles’ Day has become an annual 24-hour buying frenzy that exceeds the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, and acts as a barometer for China’s consumers.
As tills shut midnight on Saturday, Alibaba’s live sales ticker registered 168.3 billion yuan, up 39 percent from 120.7 billion yuan last year. The dollar figure was up more steeply due to the strength of the yuan against the greenback this year.
The event began soon after a star-studded event in Shanghai late on Friday. As midnight hit, a deluge of pre-orders helped drive a billion dollars of sales on Alibaba’s platforms in the first two minutes and $10 billion in just over an hour.
“In terms of scale it just dwarfs any other event out there,” said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group.
At just past the halfway mark, the headline gross merchandise volume swept past last year’s dollar total just shy of $18 billion. Shortly afterwards, sales surpassed the 2016 total in the local currency.
The event gets shoppers around China scouting for bargains and loading up their online shopping carts, while delivery men – androbots – bracefor an estimated 1.5 billion parcels expected over the next six days.
“This is a big event for China, for the Chinese economy,” Joseph Tsai, Alibaba’s co-founder and vice chairman, said. “On Singles’ Day, shopping is a sport, it’s entertainment.”
Tsai said rising disposable incomes of China’s “over 300 million middle-class consumers” was helping drive the company’s online sales - and would continue. “This powerful group is propelling the consumption of China,” he said.
The final total – morethan the GDP of Iceland or Cameroon – leavesother shopping days in the shade. Cyber Monday in the United States saw $3.45 billion in online sales last year.
Last year, the sales number rose by nearly a third at the eighth iteration of the event – thoughthat was slower than the 60% increase logged in 2015.
At Alibaba’s Friday night gala, the company’s co-founder and chairman, Jack Ma, hosted guests including the actress Nicole Kidman, singer Pharrell Williams and Chinese musicians and film stars such as Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing.