Alibaba Singles Day sales frenzy surpasses records

Alibaba Singles Day sales frenzy surpasses records

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba generated $3 billion in five minutes of its annual 24-hour online shopping sale during its "Singles" Day' sales blitz on Sunday with Apple, Xiomi featuring among the top brands.

Alibaba has also faced new challenges this year, such as new rivals in the market, a slowing economy and its stock dropping 16% thanks to China's trade war with the US. 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.

The gross merchandise value was about 27 per cent higher than last year's tally, also a record, which was surpassed mid-afternoon on Sunday.

The chief executive, who takes over from a retiring Ma as chairman next year, must prove he can carry on that legacy. No, it's not what you would think at first, it is not a celebration of single life, kind-of an anti-Valentines Day but more a festival of online shopping.

Taking place on the 11th day of the 11th month, Singles' Day - or 11.11 as it is commonly known in China - is fast becoming a calendar fixture for many New Zealand brands and retailers.

Still, there's some uncertainty this year, due to a slowing economy, real estate deflation and trade tensions with the USA that could impact on Chinese consumption. Written numerically as 11/11, the date looks like "bare branches", a Chinese expression for the single and unattached. Down payments for consumer electronics on Tmall have jumped almost six-fold year-on-year, with popular brands including Apple, Huawei, Siemens and Dyson, state run China Daily reported.

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The Twitter-like Weibo platform was blanketed with Singles Day-related posts on Sunday, from users proudly proclaiming they had resisted the shopping urge this year to those who cheerfully listed an array of mundane purchases.

Hong Tao, an economics professor at Beijing Technology and Business University, said Singles Day encourages shoppers to prioritize cheap prices over high quality, causing them to purchase items they don't need. That indicates spending may pick up in coming months; the earliest proof could come from data during Singles' Day.

This year, stars including Mariah Carey and performers from the Cirque du Soleil entertained in a four-hour gala televised on Alibaba's Youku video platform and through other media partners.

Single's Day is not a traditional Chinese holiday.

"I felt compelled to buy something as I was afraid of missing out", said Toh, 31, a digital marketing executive in Singapore. The tariff fight with the United States is casting a pall not simply over trade, but over China's future writ large.

Alibaba is not like Amazon in that it is not a retailer.