Internet giant Alibaba kicks off Singles' Day shopping bonanza with a bang

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They include tennis player Maria Sharapova, soccer player Luís Figo, basketball player LeBron James, movie star Nicole Kidman and pop icon Jessie J, as well as popular local entertainers such as Zhang Ziyi and Li Yuchun.

Alibaba hosts a large gala on the Friday before Singles Day.

Sales after three hours, at 9.04am yesterday.

Alibaba's 11.11 has grown beyond an annual online shopping bonanza to become a key driving force in transforming the lifestyle of Chinese consumers today through modern technologies.

Alibaba rivals such as JD.com also reported brisk business.

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

Global consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimated this week that Alibaba's Singles' Day sales across all e-commerce platforms this year will surge to a record 152 billion yuan (US$23 billion), compared with total spending of 120.7 billion yuan in 2016 on Alibaba platforms, including Tmall and Taobao. The date was chosen because 11-11 resembles four "bare sticks", the Chinese term for bachelor.

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The day was unremarkable until 2009, when Alibaba turned the occasion into an online shopping festival.

But environmentalists complain of ecological harm, accusing Alibaba and other e-commerce companies of fuelling a culture of excessive over-consumption and mountains of waste.

Eighteen hours later, at 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) on Saturday, Alibaba said the gross value of sales processed by its online payment system Alipay was nearing $21 billion - roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Honduras or Afghanistan.

Greenpeace said "Singles Day" deliveries past year created 130,000 tonnes of packaging waste - less than 10 percent of which is recycled.

It is a reminder for Malaysians of the recently-launched Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) in Sepang, Selangor, one that is touted to achieve similar success to Alibaba and 11.11, but with Malaysian small-medium enterprises (SMEs).

"It could end up dominating e-commerce in developing countries".

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