Singles Day wraps up a $25 billion shopping spree

Part of the daily SupChina newsletter. Subscribe for free

Singles Day (双十一 shuāng shíyī; “double eleven,” or 11/11), the retail holiday publicized by ecommerce giant Alibaba, again broke records and dwarfed similar western holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday over the weekend. It is named “Singles Day” because one, everyone can agree, is the loneliest number, and 11/11 has four of them (the holiday was supposedly dreamed up as an “Anti-Valentine’s Day” by college students in the 1990s, but Alibaba was the first to cash in on it). Some shocking stats from this season’s shopping spree:

  • Sales stacked up to 168.3 billion yuan ($25.4 billion) this year in one 24-hour period, surpassing the $24 billion mark expected by Citigroup, Quartz reports.
  • Alibaba’s sales were 40 percent higher than last year, making Singles Day four times larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to the Guardian.
  • A fifth of all sales took place in the first fifteen minutes, CNBC notes, as users placed $5 billion in transactions. At one point, 250,000 payment transactions per second were being processed by Alibaba’s servers, twice as fast as the fastest rate last year.
  • 812 million delivery orders were made, with 90 percent of gross merchandise volume coming from mobile, TechNode says.
  • Alibaba rival JD.com got into a media spat with Alibaba, as it self-reported a sales volume of 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) just an hour before Alibaba. Each questioned the others’ methodology, Sixth Tone reports.
  • There is a history of Singles Day sales numbers being questioned as unreliable. Last year, regulators met with Alibaba, JD.com, and several others to warn “against selling fakes, falsifying sales figures and engaging in other fraudulent practices,” Reuters reported.
  • Meanwhile, JD.com is doing quite well for itself, as its investments in logistics, fashion, and supermarket chains led to a sales boom of 39 percent for the third quarter, according to Bloomberg.
  • Watch a video interviewing some Singles Day shoppers on TechNode, who describe the months-long anticipation and last-minute craze of the event.

Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company’s newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.