Chinese consumers smash 'Singles' Day' shopping record

Alibaba was founded at a time when Chinese incomes were soaring after decades of rapid economic growth and the country was becoming increasingly digitalised

Chinese shoppers set new records for spending during the annual "Singles' Day" buying spree despite an economic slowdown and worries over the US trade war, with state media calling it a sign of China's rising economic strength.

E-commerce giant Alibaba said consumers spent $38.3 billion on its platforms on Monday during the world's biggest 24-hour shopping event, up 26 percent from the previous all-time high mark set last year.

The growth rate slowed slightly, however, from the 27 percent increase last year and 39 percent in 2017.

Alibaba's main domestic competitor JD.com, which holds an 11-day promotion ending at midnight on November 11, said early Tuesday it had handled sales over that stretch totalling $29.2 billion, which was up 30 percent.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said his tariffs on Chinese goods have put the country's economy on the ropes.

But state-run Xinhua news agency said the "Singles' Day" performance proved China, once known as the "world's factory" for its reliance on manufacturing for export, had evolved into a globally powerful consumer market of its own.

"Where there is a market, that is where the future lies," it said in a report.

"From the 'world's factory' to the 'world's market', a China that is continually moving towards high-quality development will unleash greater consumption potential in the future, allowing China's dividends to benefit the whole world."

Singles' Day, also called "11.11" for the November 11 date, was originally set as an unofficial day for unmarried Chinese.

But Alibaba -- which accounts for more than half of China's e-commerce -- commandeered it as a discount sales event akin to the late-November US "Black Friday", which "Singles' Day" now handily surpasses.

A range of other e-tailers and retailers also have jumped in.

Alibaba's one-day promotion on its Taobao and Tmall platforms began at midnight Sunday following a flashy stage show in Shanghai headlined by Grammy-winning US pop star Taylor Swift.

China's economy is in an extended slowdown exacerbated by the US trade war, and the Singles' Day fire sale is viewed as a snapshot of consumer sentiment in the world's second-biggest economy.

Consumers gave little indication of worry, charging out of the gate with $1 billion spent via Alibaba platforms in the first 68 seconds.

US-listed Alibaba earlier this month said revenue growth in its most recent financial quarter slowed to 40 percent, from 54 percent in the same quarter last year.

Analysts however, note that it would be difficult for Alibaba to maintain past growth rates forever, and that consumption should remain solid in the future, facilitated by factors including technology and the government's push to encourage domestic consumption as an economic driver.