China's online shoppers are engaging in a rare bright spot for its cooling economy—a quirky holiday dubbed "Singles Day" that has grown into the world's busiest day for e-commerce. The country's biggest e-commerce brand, Alibaba Group, said Friday sales by the thousands of retailers on its platforms passed 62.6 billion yuan ($9 billion) in the first 10 hours of the day. Rivals including JD.com, VIP.com, and Suning offered bargains on clothing, smartphones, travel packages, and other goods to attract shoppers, the AP reports.
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. E-commerce sales in China rose by 26.1% in the first nine months of the year. Singles Day was started by Chinese college students in the 1990s as a version of Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners.The Nov. 11 date was picked to be "11.11"—four singles. Unattached young people would treat each other to dinner or give gifts to woo that special someone and end their single status. (Last year, Kevin Spacey helped Alibaba score $1 billion in eight minutes.)