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Chinese spend big in Singles' Day shopping spree

New record spending set to shatter last year's full 24-hour record of US$30.7 billion, says Alibaba

Taylor Swift sang her latest hits from her album Lover to screaming fans at Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping gala in Shanghai.


CHINESE consumers closed in on a new spending record on Monday during the annual Singles' Day frenzy, the world's biggest 24-hour shopping event, which kicked off this year with a glitzy show by US megastar Taylor Swift.

E-commerce leader Alibaba said that within the first 12 hours, nearly 192 billion yuan (S$37.3 billion) had been spent - apparently on pace to shatter last year's full 24-hour record of US$30.7 billion.

China's economy is in the midst of an extended slowdown, exacerbated by the trade war with the United States, and the Singles' Day fire sale is viewed as a snapshot of consumer sentiment in the world's second-biggest economy.

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There was little hint of Chinese consumer belt-tightening, as US$1 billion was spent on Alibaba platforms in just the first 68 seconds.

Total gross merchandise volume settled through its payments platform Alipay hit 100 billion yuan within just 64 minutes - 43 minutes ahead of last year's pace, the company said.

The promotion, now in its 11th year, kicked off at midnight with Chinese bargain-hunters snapping up everything from electronics to clothing and household goods via Alibaba and rival platforms.

As it counted down to midnight, Alibaba led up to the event with a gala show in Shanghai headlined this year by Grammy-winner Swift, whose soul-bearing love songs are hugely popular with young Chinese.

Singles' Day, also called "11.11" for the Nov 11 date, was originally set as an unofficial day for China's unmarried millions.

But Alibaba, based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, latched on to it a decade ago as a shopping promotion akin to the late-November US Black Friday retail crush, which Singles' Day now exceeds in sales.

Other Chinese online platforms and myriad retailers have tapped in as well.

Alibaba competitor, which holds an 11-day promotion ending at midnight on Nov 11, said total sales so far had reached US$23.7 billion by Monday morning, with hours to go, surpassing the US$22.4 billion reached for the entire 11-day stretch last year.

Despite sobering economic data over the past year, China retail sales have remained a relatively bright spot, facilitated by the Chinese consumer's embrace of e-commerce and one-click smartphone payments.

China also is transitioning to an economic model increasingly driven by domestic consumption and away from a past over-reliance on manufacturing.

"Over the years, we've seen consumers become more diverse and younger," Alibaba chairman Daniel Zhang said in comments released by the company, describing the continued robust Singles' Day performance.

China e-commerce sales also have expanded, thanks to the growing diversity of products available to shoppers, and as consumers increasingly seek better-quality, higher-priced goods, analysts say. AFP