Alibaba says Singles Day event generated $12bn in first hour

Chinese online powerhouse Alibaba Group has said its 11.11 global shopping festival, which began at midnight local time, generated $12 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) in the first hour.

Alibaba recorded that figure based on sales its merchants made via its Alipay payments systems.

In the first minute and eight seconds, the platform had already generated $1 billion in GMV, according to Alibaba.

As ever, the hours leading up to midnight saw the Chinese retail behemoth host a celebrity-infused countdown gala – broadcast on its own video streaming platform, Youku, as well as 30 other online platforms and TV channels.

It was the fifth annual countdown gala, and this year’s event at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai involved a headline performance from singer Taylor Swift alongside appearances from other international and domestic celebrities.

When trading closed on 11.11 the retail giant had recorded a total of $38.4 billion in GMV, up 26% year-on-year. 

The 11.11 shopping festival has become the biggest shopping event in the world, having started in 2009 with participation from only 27 Alibaba merchants which wanted to raise awareness about the value of online shopping.

More than 200,000 brands are participating in this year’s event, which is held annually on 11 November.

Last year’s 11.11 event – also known as Singles Day – generated a record $30.8 billion over the course of the 24-hour period.

David Lloyd, Alibaba's MD for UK, Netherlands and Nordics said the event provided much more than a sales opportunity for the brands taking part: "One of the most exciting new trends in consumer engagement is livestreaming – particularly for international brands looking to reach new customers.”

He added: “Consumer beauty tech brand Smoothskin, an Intense Pulsed Light hair removal business based in Swansea is a stand-out example of a UK brand that has successfully incorporated livestreaming into its China growth and marketing strategy, particularly around the Global Shopping Festival this year.”

This article has been updated to reflect the end of trading figures for 11.11.