China Singles Day: Alibaba gets $1bn in sales in under 5 minutes

Nov 14, 2016 | E-commerce and E-retailing

E-commerce giant Alibaba has beaten its sales record for its annual Singles Day event, earning 121bn yuan ($18bn; £14bn) in revenue in one day, a rise of 32% on last year's sales which were worth $14.3bn.


Alibaba reported 82% of purchases had been made on mobile phones during the event, which celebrates single people as a kind of ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’.

“Back in 2013, $5.14 billion was our one-day GMV. Now we can achieve it in one hour,” Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang told the company’s live blog earlier in the day, adding that in the first hour of Singles’ Day, orders were coming in 175,000 per second.

This means less than halfway through the day sales surpassed last year’s total.

In terms of sales the day has now eclipsed both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest shopping days in the US.

However, some have questioned the accuracy of the numbers, amid claims of inflated sales data at Chinese online retailers. Merchants passing off counterfeit goods as genuine is also a problem in the industry.

About 83 per cent of transactions in the first hour were made on mobile devices this year, reflecting how China’s consumers, armed with smartphones, are racing online to shop – to the detriment of bricks and mortar stores.

While Alibaba is undeniably the driving force behind the event, other retailers have also started to piggyback off the idea, including extending the concept to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Alibaba’s rival, which focuses more on electronics, reported receiving more orders in the first nine hours of trading on Friday than it had done during the whole of Singles Day 2014.
It said sales passed last year’s Singles Day total in the early afternoon, but gave no figures.

Singles Day has become a Chinese tradition since students at Nanjing University in the 1990s chose the date as an antidote to Valentine’s Day, so single people could have a day to buy things for themselves. Alibaba, the driving force behind the event, turned into a shopping bonanza in 2009.

All topics

Previous editions

Get email edition