China's 'Singles Day' online shopping spree brings in billions

USA singer and producer Pharrell Williams, British pop star Jessie J and other celebrities will help launch this year's November 11 "Singles' Day", Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba said.

China's smartphone-wielding masses unleashed billions of dollars in e-commerce spending Saturday as they rushed to snap up bargains on "Singles Day". The day began innocently enough in 1993 at Nanjing University as a day to revel in singledom, according to Forbes; Alibaba's online shopping festival for the event began in 2009 as a self-affirming excuse to buy a lot online with the knowledge you're sticking it in the face of the retailers who cater to couples on Valentine's Day, but now it's become the showground for Alibaba's blossoming rivalry with Amazon.

This year, 140,000 different merchants took part in the event, including many worldwide brands like Tampax and Asos.

This was 29 percent higher than 2016, when the online shopping company made $17.8 billion.

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The holiday was once a celebration for China's lonely hearts and unattached singles, known as "bare sticks".

The event, now indulged in by all consumers whether with or without a better half, takes pride of place in the calendar of manufacturers and retailers in the country, making up a significant share of annual orders for many businesses.

Alibaba hosts a large gala on the Friday before Singles Day.

Couriers and robots are expected to deliver an estimated 1.5 billion parcels over the next six days.

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Alibaba turned 100,000 physical shops around China into "smart stores" for this year's event.

Alibaba managed to expand Singles Day from a local Chinese sales event to a global sales day. At its peak, the company's processors handled 256,000 transactions per second.

The two largest economies of the world have already witnesses robust e-commerce growth over the past decade, and Alibaba's success on Singles Day highlights the very long growth runway that the industry still enjoys. "I have often emptied my "shopping cart" on Singles Day", Zheng said. "We will see tens of billions of dollars injected overseas (by Alibaba)", said Mr Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based independent e-commerce analyst.

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