Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Singles’ Day shopathon is off to a strong start, notching $7.2 billion of sales within the first two hours of a 24-hour event that may offer clues on the health of the Chinese economy and its largest online retailer.
Investors are keeping a close eye on the annual Nov. 11 spending blitz that dwarfs Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S., to see if Alibaba can reprise the 60 percent leap in transactions to 91.2 billion yuan ($14.3 billion) it managed last year.
The e-commerce giant turned up the star-wattage for 2016, 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. Pop star Katy Perry pulled out at the last minute because of a family emergency.
SEE ALSO: Katy Perry set to perform at Alibaba’s Singles Day
Pioneered by Alibaba in 2009 and since replicated by rivals including JD.com Inc., Singles’ Day has become somewhat of a barometer of Chinese consumer sentiment.
Executives have set the bar high, confidently predicting another record-breaking endeavor at a time when the economy’s growing at its slowest pace in a quarter-century and a weakening yuan may curb enthusiasm for foreign wares.
SEE ALSO: Record sales predicted for Alibaba’s Singles Day
Singles’ Day was invented by college students in the 1990s as a counter to Valentine’s Day, according to the Communist Party-owned People’s Daily. Written numerically, Nov. 11 is reminiscent of “bare branches,” a local expression for bachelors and spinsters.
Alibaba posted $1 billion of sales in under five minutes on Friday, and within two hours had already recorded transactions amounting to half of 2015’s total.
The best-selling items included Apple Inc. phones, Nike and Adidas gear and Haier appliances, the company said on its official blog.