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China's Alibaba sets 'anti-Valentine's Day' spending record

Wang Zhao, AFP | A woman walks past a 'Singles Day' sale promotional board at the entrance of a Beijing shop on November 11, 2015

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said on Wednesday the value of merchandise it has sold so far during the Singles' Day online shopping extravaganza had surpassed last year's total of $9.3 billion.


The company, which six years ago turned Nov. 11 into China's equivalent of US shopping event Cyber Monday, could see this year's sales rise to as much as $13.8 billion, a growth of almost 50 percent from last year's total, according to research firm IDC. Inc., China's second largest e-commerce firm and Alibaba's chief rival, also said it broke past last year's full-day total just before noon China time (0400 GMT). does not give specific sales figures on the day.

Competition for a slice of China's online population of 668 million is turning increasingly fierce.

"Alibaba is positioned as the number-one player in the Chinese e-commerce market, so it has to be seen to be maintaining, or gaining ground really," said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based tech consultancy BDA.

Singles' Day, originally an "anti-Valentine's Day" mock celebration, features steep discounts and other promotions aimed at attracting droves of customers online. But with sales hitting new highs year after year, it has become a massive – and highly lucrative – business opportunity embraced by the nation's digital retailers. 

Alibaba kicked off this year's mammoth event with a television spectacular at Beijing's Water Cube Olympic swimming venue. James Bond actor Daniel Craig, and Hollywood star Kevin Spacey – in his role as President Frank Underwood from the Netflix series "House of Cards" – were just two of the galaxy of foreign and domestic stars involved.

The web giant's sales data have been closely watched as a gauge of Chinese consumption as economic growth slows.

Alibaba's numbers this year will get a boost from sales by affiliates including brick-and-mortar retailer Suning Commerce Group Co., in which it bought a 20-percent stake in August. Suning's in-store sales will count toward Alibaba's total gross merchandise volume, as long as they go through final processing online, an Alibaba spokesman said.

The company, founded by former English teacher Jack Ma, has stressed its focus on international e-commerce this Singles' Day. "Within the next five years, we expect China will become the world's largest e-commerce market for imported products," President Michael Evans told reporters.

Alibaba has by and large dominated Singles' Day sales, which has raised the ire of rivals. This month, lodged a complaint with Chinese regulators saying Alibaba was "forcing merchants" to exclusively choose its site for promotional activities, a fact Alibaba denies. later said the SAIC had formally accepted the complaint.


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