Singles Day sales boom for Alibaba, JD.com

Joe McDonald
Alibaba kicked off the Singles Day sale with a concert by Taylor Swift at a Shanghai stadium

Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com reported nearly $US70 billion ($A102 billion) in sales Monday on Singles Day, an annual marketing event that is the world's busiest online shopping day.

The day was a temporary relief to retailers that face fading demand as Chinese consumers tighten their belts, anxious over slowing economic growth and the tariff war with Washington.

University students created Singles Day in the 1990s as an alternative to Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners. Alibaba adopted it as a marketing tool a decade ago.

Rivals including JD.com, China's biggest online direct retailer, and electronics seller Suning joined in. The tactic has caught on in other Asian countries, too.

The creators picked November 11 because the date is written with four singles - "11 11".

On Monday, retailers offered discounts on goods from smartphones to craft beer to healthcare packages.

"Yesterday night, I was browsing past 11pm. Many of my friends around me were staying up till 2 am to buy stuff," said Zhu Yirun, a graduate student in Beijing.

Alibaba said sales by merchants on its platforms totalled 268.4 billion yuan ($A56 billion) for the 24 hours ending at midnight Monday after passing its 2018 total before 6pm.

JD.com said its sales were 204.4 billion yuan ($A42 billion).

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

E-commerce grew rapidly in China due to a lack of traditional retailing networks and government efforts to promote internet use. The country has the biggest online population with more than 800 million web users.

Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu and other internet giants have expanded into consumer finance, entertainment and offline retailing.

Last year, Alibaba reported Singles Day sales of 213.5 billion yuan ($A45 billion), or more than 13 times its daily average of about 16 billion yuan ($A3.3 billion).