Chinese consumers closed in on a new spending record on Monday during the annual "Singles' Day" frenzy, the world's biggest 24-hour shopping event, which kicked off this year with a glitzy show by US megastar Taylor Swift.
E-commerce leader Alibaba said that within the first 12 hours, nearly 192 billion yuan had been spent – apparently on pace to shatter last year's full 24-hour record of 215 billion yuan.
Mainland's economy is in the midst of an extended slowdown, exacerbated by the trade war with the United States, and the Singles' Day fire sale is viewed as a snapshot of consumer sentiment in the world's second-biggest economy.
There was little hint of Chinese consumer belt-tightening, as over 7 billion yuan was spent on Alibaba platforms in just the first 68 seconds.
Total gross merchandise volume settled through its payments platform Alipay hit 100 billion yuan within just 64 minutes – 43 minutes ahead of last year's pace, the company said.
The promotion, now in its 11th year, kicked off at midnight with Chinese bargain-hunters snapping up everything from electronics to clothing and household goods via Alibaba and rival platforms.
As it counted down to midnight, Alibaba led up to the event with a gala show in Shanghai headlined this year by Grammy-winner Swift, whose soul-bearing love songs are hugely popular with young Chinese.
Singles' Day, also called "11.11" for the November 11 date, was originally set as an unofficial day for mainland's unmarried millions.
Alibaba competitor JD.com, which holds an 11-day promotion ending at midnight on November 11, said total sales so far had reached 166 billion yuan by Monday morning, with hours to go, surpassing the 156 billion yuan reached for the entire 11-day stretch last year.
Despite sobering economic data over the past year, mainland's retail sales have remained a relatively bright spot, facilitated by the Chinese consumer's embrace of e-commerce and one-click smartphone payments. (AFP)