China’s smartphone-wielding masses yesterday unleashed billions of dollars in e-commerce spending as they rushed to snap up bargains on “Singles’ Day,” billed as the world’s biggest one-day online shopping festival.
Also known as “Double 11” for the Nov. 11 date, the event launched in 2009 by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) started at midnight and ended up shattering the last year’s sales mark, as it does every year.
Alibaba said that by midday yesterday, the gross value of sales processed by Alipay (支付寶), its online payment system, had surpassed the US$17.8 billion logged over the full 24 hours last year.
Last year’s amount was itself a 32 percent increase over the previous year and equal to the annual economic output of Mozambique.
The yearly display of rising Chinese consumer spending power has become a key date for manufacturers and retailers in the country, accounting for a significant share of annual orders for many businesses.
Alibaba’s rivals, such as JD.com Inc (京東商城), and a range of retailers have joined in, with merchants slashing prices to move goods.
Five minutes after midnight, Alipay was processing 256,000 payment transactions per second, doubling last year’s high-water mark, Alibaba said.
“At 12:07am, the number of payment transactions processed by Alipay surpassed 100 million, equivalent to the total number of payment transactions processed during 2012,” it said.
More than 90 percent of orders were placed via mobile, the majority of which on Alibaba’s main e-commerce platform Taobao.com (淘寶).
The day’s transaction volumes are pumped up by many Chinese delaying purchases of mundane items like rice and toilet paper to take advantage of cut-rate prices.
Alibaba launched “Singles’ Day” as the Chinese online answer to the late-November US “Black Friday” shopping rush.
E-commerce’s huge growth in China has put New York-listed Alibaba neck-and-neck with Amazon.com Inc as the world’s most valuable e-commerce company, while also making NASDAQ-listed JD.com a Fortune 500 company.
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