| HANGZHOU China
HANGZHOU China E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) reported more than $9 billion in sales on China's Singles' Day on Tuesday, illustrating the buying power of the Chinese consumer and the importance of the event in the retail calendar.
Real-time figures on a giant screen at Alibaba's sprawling Hangzhou campus surged past 2013's record to 57.1 billion yuan ($9.3 billion) just after midnight after Chinese and overseas shoppers snapped up heavily discounted goods online.
The shopping day, similar to Cyber Monday and Black Friday in the United States, comes less than eight weeks after Alibaba's record $25 billion public share listing in New York.
Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma said earlier on Tuesday that Alibaba's financial services arm, Alipay, also "will definitely go public", probably in China.
Ma later spoke briefly to reporters, saying he felt a bit nervous" due to the higher pressures and expectations now that Alibaba is a listed company.
Alibaba turned Singles' Day, a Nov. 11 Chinese response to Valentine's Day, into an online shopping festival in 2009.
It copyrighted the "Double 11" term three years later after recognizing its commercial potential.
"You're seeing the unleashing of the consumption power of the Chinese consumer," Joe Tsai, Alibaba's executive vice chairman, told reporters.
Alibaba had sales of 35 billion yuan during last year's festival.
The numbers this year were boosted by a "pre-sales initiative" under which merchants advertised prices as early as Oct. 15, taking deposits for the items but only processing full payments and shipping the goods on Singles' Day itself.
Though the 27,000 vendors that take part can boost their sales and gain customers by being featured on Alibaba's Singles' Day shopping sites, some have complained that discounts and cut-throat corporate rivalry undercut the benefits.
Rivals such as JD.com Inc (JD.O), Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd (002024.SZ) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N) Yihaodian have all gotten in on the Singles' Day act, but Tsai was bullish about Alibaba's pole position.
"I don't think any other company in China can create a day like this," he said.
The "11.11 Shopping Festival" began with just 27 merchants in 2009. This year's festival is global, reaching shoppers in more than 200 countries, the company said.
(Additional reporting by Soham Chatterjee and Sai Sachin R in Bangalore, Paul Carsten in Beijing and David Lin in Hangzhou; Editing by Will Waterman, Keith Weir and Ted Kerr)