Chinese consumers collectively spent US$1 billion in just over one minute in Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza, scooping up everything from consumer electronics, luxury items and even cars just after the clock struck midnight.

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Alibaba’s Singles’ Day shopping festival, which falls on November 11 every year, is the world’s largest of its kind. Last year, consumers splurged a record US$30.8 billion in just one day, and the festival will be closely watched this year as a barometer for consumer sentiment 16 months into a US-China trade war and a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

While the company’s e-commerce marketplaces Tmall and Taobao are traditionally the mainstays of the annual shopping extravaganza, this year’s festival will also include business-to-business e-commerce platforms like AliExpress as well as Lazada, Alibaba’s Southeast Asian e-commerce subsidiary, as the company taps international consumers.

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Apart from Alibaba, rival sites such as and Pinduoduo have also launched their own Singles’ Day campaigns, to entice buyers to spend on their platforms.

“Singles’ Day is becoming more recognised worldwide … but since it is still very much a domestic holiday and event, it is a true test of Chinese consumer power,”

Benson Ng, EY Greater China digital advisory leader.

Alibaba held its first Singles’ Day shopping event in 2009 as a promotional campaign, but these days it has morphed into a show of China’s collective consumer spending power. Last year, consumers spent 4,000 times more than they did during the first ever Singles’ Day event.

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This year, consumers in China’s less-developed areas and smaller cities are expected to help drive sales, according to PwC China consumer markets leader Jennifer Ye.

Consumers in China’s lower-tier cities, such as Guilin, Luoyang and Sanya, demonstrate a higher “willingness to pay” when compared with those in more affluent cities like Xiamen and Zhuhai, as people in smaller Chinese cities increasingly seek an upgrade in their quality of life and experience, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019 China Report.

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