Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping frenzy is set to break records in its 11th year.
The world’s biggest online shopping event raked in more than $30bn (210bn yuan; £23bn) in sales by late afternoon in China, closing in on last year’s all-time-high of $30.8bn.
A gala featuring pop star Taylor Swift launched the 24-hour shopping blitz.
It marked Alibaba’s first Singles’ Day since the exit of its colourful founder, Jack Ma.
He was replaced as executive chairman by Daniel Zhang earlier this year after stepping down to focus on philanthropy and education.
The firm said sales reached $1bn in a little over one minute of trading on Singles’ Day.
“Based upon that first hour… I would be really surprised to not see it come in above $32bn,” said Daniel Newman, technology analyst at Futurum Research.
The shopping festival began in 2009 with participation from just 27 merchants as an event to raise awareness about the value of online shopping. More than 200,000 brands are participating in this year’s event.
The number of delivery orders also exceeded one billion after 16 hours, beating the total number of orders in 2018.
But sales growth for the full 24-hour event, however, is unlikely to match that of 2018. Analysts said growth was being held back by a slowing overall e-commerce industry in China.
What is Singles’ Day?
Alibaba invented the occasion to celebrate the unattached as an antithesis to the romantically involved on Valentine’s Day.
It is now the world’s biggest online sales event and last year’s total sales exceeded Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s sales combined.
Ahead of the event, there was some concern Chinese consumers may be reluctant to buy US brands because of tensions between the countries.
The world’s two largest economies have been fighting a trade war that has seen both sides impose tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of one another’s goods.
The trade battle has cast a shadow over the Chinese economy as it grapples with a wider slowdown.
Singles’ Day is seen as an indicator of consumer sentiment in China and how willing shoppers are to spend.
Over the years, Alibaba has grown from an online marketplace into an e-commerce giant with interests ranging from financial services to artificial intelligence.
The company – one of China’s largest – is now valued at $480bn, according to Forbes. The firm is also eyeing a stock market listing in Hong Kong.
Reports suggest Alibaba – which is already listed in the US – may announce plans to proceed with a multi-billion dollar Hong Kong listing as early as this week.