When the clock struck midnight on Nov. 11, a large screen in the auditorium of Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, lit up with numbers: Within two minutes, over 1 billion yuan ($163 million) had been sold on the Chinese company’s e-commerce platforms. A cheer erupted from the room as green lights glowed on a map of the country, showing which provinces are shopping the most on the world’s largest online shopping holiday. Within an hour, over 11 billion yuan in transactions had been made.
This is the first time Alibaba is holding its famous “Singles Day” which takes place on an anti-Valentines holiday called guangunjie, since the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. Executives are taking pains to cast the holiday—and the company—as a globally as possible. “This is the first year we want to change from a Chinese consumer date to a global consumer date,” Jonathan Lu, CEO of Alibaba tells reporters.
This year, one of Alibaba’s platforms, AliExpress, which lets shoppers outside of the country purchase from merchants within China, is part of the event. So far, an excited MC announced, reading from the screen, Hong Kong, the US, and “China’s Taiwan” are the top countries for exports of Chinese goods. The company says that at least 170 countries have participated in the day.