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

QR codes being produced ahead of the Singles Day shopping festival in Wenzhou China on Oct 24

The Alibaba Group surpassed last year's Singles' Day record with more than eight hours to go before the end of the 24-hour shopping festival, cementing its position as the world's biggest retail event and assuaging concerns that Chinese consumer sentiment is softening, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, reported.

The sale covers obvious goods like smartphones, TVs and other big-ticket consumer items, but also fashion, clothing, furniture, health products and more. Singles Day has been a fixture in China since Alibaba turned the "holiday" - meant to deride single people - into a shopping extravaganza by offering deep discounts on a range of products from electronics to travel packages. Its Alipay payment service clocked 1.5 billion payment transactions, with total orders reaching 812 million.

Alibaba is today hosting its Singles' Day Sale, which happens to be one of the biggest online sales in the world.

But surely Singles' Day can't be bigger than Black Friday, right?

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.

Gross merchandise value encompasses value generated globally across Alibaba's swiftly expanding ecosystem, which includes Taobao.com, Tmall, and concepts that blend online and offline sales, like the supermarket chain Hema.

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.

Will Singles Day keep on growing?

The Jack Ma-led e-tailer registered sales worth 69 billion yuan, or $9.92 billion, within one hour of the November sale event.

This is huge for the e-commerce platform, and it had racked in over $1 billion in just a minute and 25 seconds.

For comparison, Amazon's sales were estimated to reach roughly $US4.2 billion over the company's 36-hour Prime Day in July.

Alibaba has also faced new challenges this year, such as new rivals in the market, a slowing economy and its stock dropping 16% thanks to China's trade war with the US.

The opening of 11.11 global shopping event was enlivened by performances featuring Mariah Carey, Cirque du Soleil and many more.

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