(Reuters) – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd kicked off its annual Singles’ Day mega-shopping event on Wednesday, looking to cash in on consumers itching for discounts as the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 crisis.
Alibaba launched the online blitz early this year, with two primary discount periods taking place from Nov. 1 – Nov. 3 and again on the full day of Nov. 11.
The company will calculate gross merchandise volume (GMV) over the full 11-day period, as opposed to the usual 24-hour period.
As of 12:30 a.m. local time (1630 GMT) on Nov. 11, the campaign’s GMV surpassed 372.3 billion yuan ($56.3 billion) and the order rate hit a record 583,000 orders per second, Alibaba said.
This year’s online shopping extravaganza comes a week after Alibaba lost almost $76 billion of its market value, following China’s suspension of the $37 billion listing of Ant Group, the financial technology firm Alibaba owns a third of.
Pop star Katy Perry, who has performed at the event before, made an appearance at the company’s gala, albeit via livestream, as travel restrictions on outside visitors remain in place in China.
Alibaba has said it will introduce more than 2 million new products, double the amount last year. Other companies such as Douyin, the Chinese version of ByteDance’s TikTok, JD.com and Pinduoduo are also holding their own Singles Day shopping events.
Analysts expect that this year will be a boon for luxury brands, as Chinese consumers accustomed to going overseas to buy high-end goods are now stuck at home.
Andy Halliwell, senior director retail and retail analyst at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient said in a note that “the lack of consumer tourism which has hit European and U.S. stalwarts like Harrods, Galeries Lafayette and Nordstroms will likely see bigger spending locally”.
Alibaba first launched the shopping event in 2009 and has made it the world’s biggest online sales festival, eclipsing Cyber Monday in the United States. Last year, it recorded $38.4 billion in GMV on the day.
($1 = 6.6146 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Josh Horwitz; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Edwina Gibbs