Alibaba Singles' Day sales hit $10 billion in first hour

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang kicks off the 11:11 Global Shopping Festival in Beijing.                  Image Supplied

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang kicks off the 11:11 Global Shopping Festival in Beijing. Image Supplied

The Chinese company hit a record $1bn in sales in 85 seconds, and then just shy of $10bn in the first hour of the 24-hour spree.

This year's Nov 11 gala offers a glimpse of consumer sentiment in China as USA tensions and a tit-fortat tariff war depress stock markets and threaten to dampen the world's No. 2 economy.

Still, Alibaba is intent on beating 2017's 39 percent growth and 168 billion yuan in transactions, a haul that dwarfed the signature USA shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

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, Mr Zhang, who takes over from a retiring Mr Ma as chairman next year, must prove he can carry on that legacy.

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Sales of Tmall's first shopping festival totaled about 52 million yuan. "There is now a saying that "winter is coming" for the economy", said He Xiaoyu, a lecturer at the Central University of Finance and Economics, referring to Singles Day by its nickname 11.11, or November 11.

Still, there's some uncertainty this year, due to a slowing economy, real estate deflation and trade tensions with the US that could impact on Chinese consumption. Products from Xiaomi Apple and Dyson topped early sales, Bloomberg reported.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who will step down as chairman in less than a year, attended the start of the gala in Shanghai and appeared in a video message in which he wrapped up live hair crabs, a popular online purchase.

While most businesses benefit from the holiday in China now, the biggest beneficiary of Singles' Day is Alibaba.

Today, Singles' Day has expanded to become a shopping festival for everyone, and Alibaba holds an annual Double 11 star-studded gala packed with celebrities and performances to entertain its millions of users as they shop.

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Alibaba kicked off this year's sales with a gala event that featured US singer Mariah Carey, a Japanese Beyonce impersonator and a shoe-shopping-themed Cirque du Soleil performance.

Single's Day is not a traditional Chinese holiday.

It's been three years since Ma said he wants to make Singles' Day a global phenomenon. He spent about S$170 (US$123) this year on Lazada this year, including S$29 on a surprise box from apparel brand Dockers that would come with S$100 worth of items.

Besides expanding overseas, the e-commerce giant continues to invest in China in what it calls "new retail", which optimizes in-store sales and service using data culled online. The tariff fight with the United States is casting a pall not simply over trade, but over China's future writ large.

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