Over the course of seven years, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba took a 23-year-old holiday celebrating singlehood and turned it into the biggest shopping day of the year.
Singles' Day, a celebration of simply being single, is held in China on Nov. 11 (the date is all ones, get it?). The holiday was started by college students at Nanjing University in 1993, but in 2009, Alibaba, the world's largest retailer, decided to take advantage and started offering online deals to coincide with the holiday.
This year's sales have already broken last year's record, bringing in $15 billion 20 hours into the day-long event, with final sales expected to be around $20 billion. By 1 a.m. in China, mobile purchases accounted for 84 percent of all sales. And the company reports that the top U.S.-based brands have been Apple, Nike, New Balance, Playboy and Skechers. And don’t think that Alibaba’s customers are limited only to China. The company reported that approaching midnight EST on Nov. 10, the United States was number one in sales to China.
For the first time this year, companies such as Apple and Target were available to customers on Tmall, Alibaba's massive online store, joining brands such as Gap, Starbucks, Costco, Macy's and Zara.
The company brought in $7 million during the first Singles' Day sales event in 2009, which included 27 merchants. In 2014, consumers spent $9.3 billion on Nov. 11. It took only 12 hours to surpass that figure in 2015 -- the final tally for 2015's sales was a whopping $14.3 billion. Thirty-thousand brands from 25 different countries sold items on Alibaba's multiple online marketplaces and 120,000 orders were made every minute last year. Singles' Day sales were three times more than Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined in 2015.
Purchases through Alibaba and its businesses make up 80 percent of China's online sales. The company has also trademarked the phrase Double 11. Last year, Alibaba held a three-hour television special called the Tmall Double-11 Night Carnival that featured big name stars such as Kevin Spacey and James Bond actor Daniel Craig.
This year's extravaganza included NBA star Kobe Bryant and Victoria and David Beckham, a fashion show and virtual reality shopping experiences.