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Chinese spend billions shopping online on 'Singles Day'

| Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, 8:12 a.m.
A visitor to the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com stands near a digital map showing the flow of deliveries across the country in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
A visitor to the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com stands near a digital map showing the flow of deliveries across the country in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
A visitor to the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com stands near a digital map showing the flow of deliveries across the country in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
A visitor to the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com stands near a digital map showing the flow of deliveries across the country in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Workers monitor laptops at the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com during 'Singles Day' in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Workers monitor laptops at the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com during 'Singles Day' in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, Jack Ma is founder of China's biggest e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, attends a star-studded 2017 Tmall 11.11 Global Shopping Festival gala, in Shanghai.
In this photo taken Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, Jack Ma is founder of China's biggest e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, attends a star-studded 2017 Tmall 11.11 Global Shopping Festival gala, in Shanghai.
Young children visit the headquarters for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com during 'Singles Day' in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Young children visit the headquarters for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com during 'Singles Day' in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
A woman waits to leave a Unmanned Convenience Store that uses facial recognition to allow shoppers to walk in and pay for their purchases without having to go through a human cashier at the headquarters forChinese e-commerce giant JD.com in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
A woman waits to leave a Unmanned Convenience Store that uses facial recognition to allow shoppers to walk in and pay for their purchases without having to go through a human cashier at the headquarters forChinese e-commerce giant JD.com in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.

BEIJING — Chinese consumers are spending billions of dollars shopping online for anything from diapers to diamonds on “Singles Day,” a day of promotions that has grown into the world's biggest e-commerce event.

China's biggest e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group, said sales by the thousands of retailers on its platforms had exceeded 130 billion yuan ($20 billion) by early evening Saturday in a count that started at midnight Friday. Last year, sales on Alibaba's platforms totaled over 120.7 billion yuan, a record for the company.

By comparison, American shoppers last year spent more than $5 billion shopping online on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, according to Adobe, which tracks such data. Shoppers also spent $3.39 billion on Cyber Monday last year, the largest single online shopping day in the U.S., Adobe said.

In China, Alibaba's main rival, online retailer JD.com, said sales had topped $16.7 billion — though the tallies are not comparable because JD tracks transactions starting from Nov. 1 through to the actual day.

Starting at midnight Friday, diamonds, Chilean frozen salmon, tires, diapers, beer, shoes, handbags, and appliances were shipped out from JD.com's distribution centers on trucks bound for deliveries across China.

China is already the world's largest e-commerce market and the share of online shopping that makes up all consumer spending grows every year. Boston Consulting Group forecasts online spending will rise by 20 percent a year, hitting $1.6 trillion by 2020, compared with 6 percent growth for off-line retail.

Singles Day was begun by Chinese college students in the 1990s as a version of Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners.

Zhang Jingjing, a 30-year-old clerk for an engineering company, prepared for Singles Day by building a shopping list on Alibaba's retail platform Tmall and watching for when prices dip. She then clicks and snags a long-sought item at a discount.

“I have often emptied my ‘shopping cart' on Singles Day,” Zheng said. “I have been watching those goods for a long time and know very well their original prices.”

The spending gives a boost to the ruling Communist Party's efforts to nurture consumer-based economic growth and reduce reliance on trade and investment. China has 731 million internet users, up 6 percent from 2016, according to government statistics.

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