Alibaba sales surge to $5 billion in 15 minutes on Singles Day

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Alibaba Day, known as the "11.11 Global Shopping Festival", is the largest e-commerce day in the world, driven by the main Alibaba platform, Tmall. Sales online in China have exceeded the two biggest shopping days in the U.S. combined - Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It is called Singles Day because it is on 11/11, honoring the number one and the people who are single and would like to treat themselves to something nice.

Alibaba began running sales on the day in 2009 and it has since become the country's equivalent of the United States Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

A year ago the shopping holiday drove $18 billion worth of retail sales for participating sellers, a pop-up luxury hub, Double 11 Musée, will appear online and in the Tmall app for high-end brands.

Alibaba has championed the shopping holiday and, this year, pulled in $12 billion in just the first two hours.

Many Japanese makers of consumer goods are positioning themselves to cash in on China's Singles Day, as the November 11 holiday for celebrating the single life has morphed into an online shopping extravaganza in recent years.

Singles' Day is a holiday created to serve as an alternative to Valentines Day in China. Last year, Alibaba shipped more than 1 billion packages and is on track to well outpace that this year.

This year's gala is set to features appearances by the likes musicians Pharrell Williams and Jessie J, basketball star LeBron James and tennis player Maria Sharapova. A Chinese white liquor maker wants to lift lonely spirits by offering a lifetime supply of booze for less than $1,700.

The endless batch can be inherited by a family member if the customer dies within five years of the purchase.

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