Alibaba breaks Singles Day sales record

Singles Day is an alternative to Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners.

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, broke its Singles Day sales record, the company said Monday.

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Gross merchandise volume reached 213.5 billion yuan (more than $30 billion) on Monday afternoon local time during the world's busiest online shopping day.

JD.com, the biggest Chinese online direct retailer, said sales reached $23.8 billion by 9 a.m. local time.

Singles Day began as a joke holiday created by university students in the 1990s as an alternative to Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners. It falls on Nov. 11 because the date is written with four singles — "11 11."

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Alibaba, the world's biggest e-commerce brand by total sales volume, adopted the day as a sales tool a decade ago.

E-commerce has grown rapidly in China due to a lack of traditional retailing networks and government efforts to promote internet use. Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu and other internet giants have expanded into consumer finance, entertainment and offline retailing.

On Monday, online retailers offered discounts on goods from craft beer to TV sets to health care packages.

Alibaba kicked off the event with a concert Sunday night by Taylor Swift at a Shanghai stadium.

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Chinese online spending is growing faster than retail overall but is weakening as economic growth slows and consumers, jittery about Beijing's tariff war with Washington and possible losses, put off big purchases.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.