China's Biggest Shopping Event: What Is Singles Day?

SHANGHAI CHINA- NOVEMBER 10 A general view of atmosphere at 2017 Alibaba Singles' Day Global Shopping Festival gala at Mercedes Benz Arena

Sales in 2016 topped US$17bn, easily eclipsing similar holidays like Black Friday in the United States.

More than 140,000 brands will participate in 11.11 in 2017, offering 15 million products The Double 11 shopping event will have more than 60,000 worldwide brands that will offer popular items from authentic autographed sports memorabilia to fresh foods and produce to half a billion Chinese consumers.

For Alibaba, it's the biggest single day of the year, and the company is gearing up to ship more than 1 billion packages as a result of the holiday.

It is selling the lifetime supply of grain-based baijiu, a typical Chinese alcohol, on e-commerce giant Alibaba's business-to-customer Tmall platform.

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Singles Day is a made-up celebration that gained popularity in China as an alternative to Valentine's day.

With a focus on retail as entertainment, this year is expected to be bigger with more add-ons including augmented-reality games, shopping tours and virtual fitting rooms.

Feeling down on "Singles Day" this weekend?

The headline sales number is likely to top last year's total of 113bn yuan (£13bn), an increase of almost a third from 2015. Each year Alibaba holds a slickly produced live-streamed and televised countdown gala that has become more and more extravagant. Alibaba's Ma, a tai chi aficionado, is set unveil a short film starring himself performing martial arts alongside Jet Li, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"'s Donnie Yen and Thailand's Tony Jaa. The purchase agreement the company is circulating online says that within five years of purchase you can transfer the supply to a family member in the event of the original purchaser's death.

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