Online shoppers spent more than $14 billion within the first two hours of China’s annual buying frenzy on Sunday, once again breaking records as the consumer tradition enters its 10th year.
The spending binge breaks from gloomy forecasts about the world’s second-largest economy, which is struggling with a tariff war with the US, a stock market slump and slowing overall growth.
Known as Singles Day, the clamor for deals and discounts was heralded with characteristic fanfare by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has turned an unofficial holiday for people without romantic partners into a yearly windfall for digital retailers.
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. By the 1 hour and 47-minute mark, that number had increased tenfold.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who will step down as chairman in less than a year, attended the start of the gala in Shanghai.
Singles Day began as a spoof event celebrated by unattached Chinese university students in the 1990s. In Chinese, it’s called “Double 11,” after the numbers in the month and date. The improvised holiday has since been co-opted by e-retailers and transformed into China’s version of Cyber Monday — the busiest time for online shopping in the US.
The Twitter-like Weibo platform was blanketed with Singles Day-related posts on Sunday, from users proudly proclaiming that they had resisted the shopping urge this year to those who cheerfully listed an array of mundane purchases.