Alibaba’s (NYSE:BABA) Singles’ Day sales extravaganza is now the world’s biggest shopping event. Singles’ Day is China’s much larger version of Black Friday. The event began soon after a star-studded event in Shanghai late on Friday and lasted until midnight on Saturday.
Alibaba’s live sales ticker registered 168.3 billion yuan ($25.4 billion), up 39 percent from 120.7 billion yuan last year. Pre-orders accounted for a billion dollars of sales on Alibaba’s platforms in the first two minutes and totaled about $10 billion in just over an hour. At just past the halfway mark, the headline gross merchandise volume was just shy of $18 billion.
Singles’ Day now exceeds the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. Cyber Monday in the United States saw $3.45 billion in online sales last year. The event helped at least 82 brands top 100 million yuan in sales.
The holiday was once a celebration for China’s lonely hearts and unattached singles, known as “bare sticks.” It takes its name from the way the day is written numerically as 11/11. This year, shoppers from at least 225 countries and regions participated in the event. It is expected that an estimated 1.5 billion parcels related to the event will be shipped over the next six days to millions of people across more than 600 cities.
Alibaba turned 100,000 physical shops around China into “smart stores” for this year’s event. At these stores, customers could physically handle the products, then purchase and pay for them on Alibaba’s platforms. These sales were added towards the total sales for Singles’ Day.
The rising disposable incomes of China’s more than 300 million middle-class consumers has helped drive the company’s online sales. About 90 percent of transactions were done via mobile. Before the event, Alibaba teams helped some 600,000 outlets upgrade their computer systems to cope with the expected deluge of orders. At its peak, the company’s processors handled 256,000 transactions per second.