THE biggest online shopping event you’ve never heard of has just wrapped up with more than $10 billion in sales made in 24 hours.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Singles Day discount event — so named for the four ‘singles’ (11/11) — smashed just about every record.

The numbers are pretty mind-boggling: $2.3 billion in goods sold in the first hour, $10.7 billion sold overall, a 60 per cent increase on last year. For comparison, Adobe predicts Australians will spend $189 million in 24 hours during the Click Frenzy online shopping event next Tuesday.

It’s the sixth year Alibaba has run the event, designed to boost retail sales at a traditionally slow period in the Chinese cycle, and the first since the record-breaking IPO. Singles Day is already bigger than the three big shopping events in the US, Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which combined recorded $4.25 billion in sales.

Big-name western brands are getting involved for the first time this year, including Clinique, Calvin Klein and Diageo’s Haig Club whisky, fronted by David Beckham. China overtook the US last year to be the world’s largest online retail market, with sales of 1.85 trillion yuan ($A350 billion), statistics from the commerce ministry show.

The company does not sell products directly but acts as an electronic middleman. The giant operates China’s most popular online shopping platform, Taobao, which is estimated to hold more than 90 per cent of the online market for consumer-to-consumer transactions.
It also owns other marketplaces, including business-to-consumer platform Tmall.

“The enormous increase in Singles Day sales is supported by the strong growth in China’s overall online retail market,” Wang Xiaoxing, a Beijing-based analyst with consultancy Analysys International, told AFP. “As the country’s penetration rate of online shopping increases, consumers’ spending power also grows stronger. Alibaba has been a main driver and leader of China’s online retail market, it has especially pushed the developments in online payment system and logistics networks.”