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Alibaba smashes Singles' Day shopping record

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. broke its Singles' Day sales record with about four hours to spare, affirming the strength of the Chinese consumer despite the country's economic slowdown, according to a report in Bloomberg.

Sales on one of the world's largest e-commerce platform reached $15 billion shortly before 8pm in China, easily topping last year's total of $14.3 billion with enough time left for sales to climb further. Overtaking both America's Cyber Monday and Black Friday, the 24-hour online promotion is closely watched for clues on the health of the economy and its largest online retailer, the report added.

Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba pioneered the annual shopping festival in 2009 and has since transformed it into a social phenomenon, replicated by rivals including JD.com Inc. and now involving thousands of marquee labels across the world.

The Chinese e-commerce giant kicked off this year's Singles' Day on Friday after a glamorous televised event enlisting Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, sports celebrity David Beckham, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and pop-rock band One Republic to headline a pre-sale gala and drum up international attention.

Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang, in the company's official blog said, "Back in 2013, 35 billion yuan was our one day GMV. Now we can achieve it in one hour."

During the first hour, order volume reached a record-breaking peak of 175,000 orders in just one second, Zhang added, while 120,000 payments were settled per second at the peak.

Last year during the peak of the sale, the communications network run by Alibaba Cloud, the company's cloud-computing subsidiary, processed 140,000 orders per second, the blog said.

Total GMV surpassed $1 billion in four minutes and 54 seconds into the sale and the mobile GMV surpassed $1 billion in five minutes 31 seconds into the sale, the company claimed.

The 11.11 festival, as it is also called, will see almost 11,000 brands selling their products.

"Consumer behaviour is changing," Zhang said during the event. "Shopping has become entertainment." Pop star Katy Perry who was supposed to perform at the event, withdrew at the last minute because of a family emergency, according to media reports.

Bloomberg reported that, "despite the strong initial showing, Alibaba's US-traded shares fell as much as 4.6% on Thursday. That followed a 3.2% slide on Wednesday amid concerns about how Donald Trump's presidency could affect the company's overseas expansion."

In India, the big October/Diwali festive season proved a success for homegrown e-commerce player Flipkart, which tipped US-based Amazon to be the biggest seller in the period.

The Bengaluru-based unicorn sold 15.5 million units at its just-concluded Big Billion Days sale, scoring ahead of Amazon, which sold 15 million units in its five-day Great Indian Festival.

Flipkart also reportedly generated gross sales worth Rs 3,000 crore, a report in Mint citing three unnamed sources said. Top selling products were Apple iPhones, Xiaomi and Motorola smartphones and VU television sets. At last year's Big Billion Day sale, Flipkart said that it sold 8 million units of goods worth Rs 2,000 crore in gross merchandise value.

During its sale, Amazon saw five times increase in new customers with 70% coming from tier II and III towns, Amit Agarwal, Amazon India Country Manager told Press Trust of India. The company's best-selling product was its Prime membership, followed by smartphones, fashion and FMCG.

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