Alibaba Singles’ Day sales hit $23 billion in first nine hours

Alibaba said sales for its annual Singles’ Day shopping blitz hit 158.31 billion yuan ($22.63 billion) in its first nine hours, up 25% from 126.72 billion yuan at the same point last year.

Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U S, Singles’ Day has been encouraged as a shopping fest by Alibaba Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Zhang since 2009, growing sharply to become the world’s biggest online sales event.

Also known as “Double Eleven”, the festival’s name comes from the calendar date Nov. 11, with  four ones of 11/11 indicating being single.

Alibaba gathered sales worth $30 billion on its platforms on Singles’ Day last year, smashing the $7.9 billion U.S. online sales for Cyber Monday. Yet the 27% sales growth was the lowest in the event’s 10-year history, forcing a search for fresh ideas.

Citic Securities, in a Nov. 9 research note, forecast Singles Day sales to increase 20-25% this year, held back slightly by slowing overall e-commerce growth in China.

The Chinese retail force with a market value of $486 billion, commenced this year’s 24-hour shopping fest with performances by American pop star Taylor Swift and local celebrities like Jackson Yee.

Sales accomplished $1 billion in the first minute and eight seconds and reached 84 billion yuan in the first hour, up 22% from last year’s early haul of 69 billion yuan.

Singles’ Day was among the top topics on China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblogging platform on Monday morning, with users thinking what they spent their money on.

Alibaba has said it predicts around 500 million users to participate in the shopping festival this year, about 100 million more than last year.

This is the first time Alibaba’s Singles’ Day does not have mighty co-founder Jack Ma on board, after he resigned in September as chairman to start a new life.

It comes at a crucial time for the company, which is eyeing to raise up to $15 billion via a share sale in Hong Kong this month.

Alibaba continues to rule the online shopping industry.

In addition to longtime rival JD.com, it faces competition from Pinduoduo, which rised in popularity in 2017 by focusing consumers in China’s lower-tier cities.

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