Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding on Monday said sales for its annual Singles' Day shopping blitz hit CNY 158.31 billion (roughly Rs. 1,60,000 cores) in its first nine hours, up 25 percent from 126.72 billion yuan at the same point last year.
Akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, Singles' Day has been promoted as a shopping fest by Alibaba Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Zhang since 2009, growing rapidly to become the world's biggest online sales event.
Also known as "Double Eleven", the festival's name originates from the calendar date November 11, with the four ones of 11/11 signifying being single.
Alibaba netted sales worth $30 billion (roughly Rs. 2,14,000 crores) on its platforms on Singles' Day last year, dwarfing the $7.9 billion (roughly Rs. 56,400 crores) US online sales for Cyber Monday. Yet the 27 percent sales growth was the lowest in the event's 10-year history, spurring a search for fresh ideas.
Citic Securities, in a November 9 research note, forecast Singles Day sales to grow 20-25 percent this year, held back partly by slowing overall e-commerce growth in China.
The Chinese retail juggernaut, with a market value of $486 billion (roughly Rs. 34,70,000 crores), kicked off this year's 24-hour shopping fest with performances by American pop star Taylor Swift and local celebrities such as Jackson Yee.
Sales hit $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,000 crores) in the first minute and eight seconds and reached CNY 84 billion (roughly Rs. 85,000 crores) in the first hour, up 22 percent from last year's early haul of 69 billion yuan.
Singles' Day was among the top trending topics on China's Twitter-like Weibo microblogging platform on Monday morning, with users discussing what they spent their money on.
Alibaba has said it expects over 500 million users to participate in the shopping festival this year, about 100 million more than last year.
It also comes at a crucial time for the company, which is looking to raise up to $15 billion via a share sale in Hong Kong this month.
Alibaba continues to dominate the online shopping industry, but not without competition.
In addition to longtime rival JD.com, it also faces competition from Pinduoduo, which surged in popularity in 2017 by targeting consumers in China's lower-tier cities.
© Thomson Reuters 2019