Singles’ Day sale: Alibaba sets record at $31 billion

Alibaba Singles’ Day 2018 All You Need to Know and How to Shop From India

Still, Alibaba is intent on beating 2017's 39 percent growth and 168 billion yuan in transactions, a haul that dwarfed the signature USA shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

No one expects Alibaba to generate whopper Singles Day sales growth numbers every year for eternity.

The challenge for billionaire Jack Ma and his lieutenant Daniel Zhang is to notch another record after a scorching decade-long run. It takes its name from the way the day is written numerically as 11/11, which resembles "bare branches", a local expression for the unattached.

Once something of a laugh among Chinese university singletons, Singles Day is now the single largest shopping holiday of the year, largely thanks to Alibaba.

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Ren Xiaotong, a 27-year-old accountant in Beijing, said she suspected online stores jacked up their prices in the lead-up to Singles Day so they could declare that items were discounted. To cater to these consumers, Alibaba held its first Singles' Day shopping event in 2009 to serve these consumers.

It comes as the company is grappling with a weaker sales outlook amid rising trade tensions between China and the United States that have taken a bite out of China's economy.

The world's biggest 24-hour shopping event, celebrating its tenth year, kicked off early Sunday and once again shattered its own sales mark as Chinese online buyers seized on promotions to snap up everything from electronics to clothing and housewares. Pinduoduo Inc., which is backed by archrival Tencent Holdings Ltd., and other smaller platforms are gaining traction with consumers and other companies have latched on to making 11 November a key promotional event with discounts on the day.

"People are swept up in the festivities", Professor Hong said in a phone interview. "We're connecting online shopping with offline physical outlets". With Singapore-based Lazada now fully under its wing, the region remains one of the company's relative bright spots, amid a backdrop of slowing growth in China and turmoil brought on by the escalating trade war.

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With Ma set to exit, it will be up to Zhang to prove he can carry on the chairman's legacy, including fulfilling a goal of creating a global company that gets half of its sales from overseas.

"Our market is being redefined as not just the 20 percent of commerce that is conducted online, but the 100 percent of commerce that exists in China today", he said. "But when we start with the new retail, it greatly helps us extend the total addressable market".

This story was originally published November 9. Only the headline has been changed.

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