Alibaba sets new Singles Day record with more than $30.8 billion in sales in 24 hours

Key Points
  • Alibaba smashed through its Singles Day sales record on Sunday.
  • The gross merchandise value (GMV) hit over $30.8 billion in sales in the 24-hour shopping event.
  • That topped the $25.3 billion record set in 2017.
  • Singles Day got off to a strong start with sales hitting $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds.

Alibaba on Sunday tore through last year's Singles Day sales record, racking up more than $30.8 billion in the 24-hour shopping event.

Employees cheer in front of a screen showing Alibaba's sales volume exceeding 213.5 billion yuan (about 30.7 billion US dollars) during the Alibaba Group's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival on November 12, 2018 in Shanghai, China.
VCG | Getty Images

Gross merchandise value (GMV), a figure that shows sales across the Chinese e-commerce giant's various shopping platforms, surpassed last year's $25.3 billion record at around 5:34 p.m. SIN/HK (4:34 a.m. ET) on Sunday, and kept marching higher through the rest of the day.

In Chinese currency terms, GMV totaled 213.5 billion yuan, easily beating last year's figure of 168.2 billion yuan and representing a nearly 27 percent year-on-year rise. That was, however, smaller than the 39 percent year-on-year growth recorded in 2017.

What is Singles Day?

Alibaba's Singles Day GMV beat last year's figure in yuan terms earlier than it toppled the dollar record. The Chinese currency is weaker against the greenback from a year ago, which means more sales in yuan are required to get the same dollar amount.

It was the 10th edition of the annual Singles Day event, which is also called the Double 11 shopping festival because it falls on Nov. 11. During the 24-hour period, Alibaba offered huge discounts across its e-commerce sites such as Tmall.

Alibaba's Singles Day sales haul easily exceeded the spending by consumers during any single U.S. shopping holiday.

The event got off to a strong start with sales hitting $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds. Just over an hour in, and sales exceeded $10 billion, five minutes and 21 seconds faster than last year. The number of delivery orders surpassed a billion.

Alibaba introduced new aspects into this year's Singles Day. Lazada, a Singapore-based e-commerce site that has operations across Southeast Asia and is majority-owned by Alibaba, hosted its own sales. And, Alibaba's food delivery platform, provided delivery for select Starbucks stores across 11 Chinese cities. Starbucks struck a deal earlier this year with Alibaba to work together in China.

'New retail focus'

Alibaba hosted a gala featuring celebrities including Miranda Kerr and Mariah Carey which kicked off on Saturday and went through to the end of the 11:11 event. Company founder Jack Ma also made an appearance at the media event which marked the start of Singles Day, but he did not give a speech.

The Chinese giant is putting a big focus this year on a strategy it calls "new retail," which aims to bring together the online parts of its business with the offline. For example, it has a chain of grocery stores called Hema which allow users to go in and shop, pay with their phone and walk out. The Starbucks deal is part of the new retail strategy.

"When we talk about new retail, we strongly believe that online commercial world and offline brick mortars are not separate worlds. And if you look at the customer base today, everyone is living in the internet. Everybody is the internet user. You have the same customer base. You must have the same commercial world. It's all about how to innovate online and offline to a whole digitalized commercial world," Zhang told CNBC.

Online and offline stores 'are not separate worlds': Alibaba CEO


Singles Day could provide some relief to investors amid concerns that the U.S.-China trade war and stock market drops in the mainland have hit Chinese consumer appetite. Alibaba is facing a number of headwinds with shares down nearly 16 percent this year due to weakening investors sentiment towards Chinese technology companies because of the trade war. And the company recently cut its revenue guidance for the fiscal year.

Ahead of Singles Day, Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba told CNBC in an exclusive interview that aired earlier this week, that the U.S.-China trade tensions could be an opportunity for the firm.

"Well, I would say nobody likes trade war and nobody likes the uncertainty of the economic condition. But what we always do is that to try to find opportunities in the tough time. If people have some pain points, this means some opportunities. How to help people in the tough time to get more business, not only in China but also in the global markets," Zhang told CNBC.

"For Alibaba, we always think about our mission, which is make it easy to do business anywhere. I think it's more relevant today in this condition," he added.

Alibaba also pledged last week to help businesses sell $200 billion worth of goods to China in the next five year.

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