China Singles Day : Alibaba hits $1bn of sales in less than five minutes

About 16 hours in the event, sales had reached $13.7bn

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The Independent Online

Chinese retail giant Alibaba has set a new record for its annual Singles Day event as sales reached $1bn in less than five minutes and hit $13.7bn in the first 16 hours as Chinese shoppers snapped up online bargains.

This means less than halfway through the day sales surpassed last year’s total.

At this pace, Alibaba could be on track to sell over $20 billion in merchandise, according to analysts.

Singles Day has become a Chinese tradition since students at Nanjing University in the 1990s chose the date as an antidote to Valentine’s Day, so single people could have a day to buy things for themselves. Alibaba, the driving force behind the event, turned into a shopping bonanza in 2009.

In terms of sales the day has now eclipsed both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest shopping days in the US.

"Back in 2013, 35 billion yuan ($5.14 bin; £4bn) was our one-day gross merchandise volume," said Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang in a live microblog posting on Alibaba's event. 

"Now we can achieve it in one hour," he added.

About 83 per cent of transactions in the first hour were made on mobile devices this year, reflecting how China's consumers, armed with smartphones, are racing online to shop - to the detriment of bricks and mortar stores.

The event was preceded by a musical extravaganza in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that combined local and international celebrities such as David and Victoria Beckham as well as the band One Republic. 

Alibaba said its Singles Day sale would feature 6m products from 30,000 brands sold by 40,000 merchants.

​​Singles’ Day isn’t just limited to Alibaba, other retailers such as also participate.

China’s consumers purchased about $55.7 bn in merchandise online in 2015.


Additional reporting by Reuters