Chinese spend billions shopping online on 'Singles Day'

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As per the company, over 140,000 brands are participating in this year's 11.11, offering promotions for more than 15 million product listings. The 1-day online shopping event has passed $20.3 billion in sales 7 hours before the end of the sale.

Singles' Day now marks the start of a 24-day shopping festival.

Additionally, the retailer hit a record $18 billion in just 13 hours, eclipsing last year's record of $17.8 billion in 24 hours.

USA singer and producer Pharrell Williams, British pop star Jessie J and other celebrities will help launch this year's November 11 "Singles' Day", Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba said.

Alibaba rivals such as JD.com also reported brisk business.

By comparison, American shoppers past year spent more than $5 billion shopping online on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, according to Adobe, which tracks such data.

Singles Day - the frenzied annual celebration of consumption and commerce that is China's much larger version of Black Friday - began as a protest of sorts against Valentine's Day, propelled by college students in the 1990s.

E-commerce's huge growth in China has put New York-listed Alibaba neck-and-neck with Amazon as the world's most valuable e-commerce company, while also making Nasdaq-listed JD.com a Fortune 500 company. Cyber Monday sales clocked in at $3.5 billion-resulting in total sales of about $8.7 billion as consumers prepared for the gift-giving holiday season.

In China, Alibaba's main rival, online retailer JD.com, said sales had topped $16.7 billion - though the tallies are not comparable because JD tracks transactions starting from November 1 through to the actual day.

Greenpeace said "Singles Day" deliveries a year ago created 130,000 tonnes of packaging waste - less than 10 percent of which is recycled.

Alibaba said hundreds of millions of Southeast Asian consumers will be able to access Taobao this "Singles Day". Quirkier items meant to nail in on the joke about the nature of Singles' Day were heavily promoted, such as a one time payment of 11,111 yuans (roughly $1,672 USD) for a lifetime supply of baiju liquor.

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