Alibaba Kills It On Singles Day

Alibaba said its sales for China’s Singles Day on Tuesday (Nov. 11) surpassed $2 billion in the first hour — including more than $1 million in Alipay transactions in the first 18 minutes — and 45.7 percent of first-hour sales were via mobile.

The Chinese e-commerce giant expects to clear $8.2 billion for the holiday, which would be a 43 percent rise from $5.75 billion on Singles Day in 2013, when sales surpassed the combined online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S., according to Marketwatch.

But because of higher-than-usual return rates, the official sales numbers somewhat overstate the amount of actual commerce done, Seeking Alpha reported. According to Gartner, 25 percent of Singles Day merchandise bought in 2013 was returned. Barclays estimates that the overall return rate for Chinese online transactions is 20 percent.

Alibaba invented the “11.11 Shopping Festival” in 2009, playing off a celebration of bachelors by students at Nanjing University in the 1990s. Alibaba heavily promotes the holiday with steep retail discounts on its Taobao and Tmall e-commerce sites.