China's Alibaba, JD report booming Singles Day sales

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In this photo taken Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, shoppers visit a popular retail district ahead of Nov. 11 Singles day in Beijing. Chinese online shoppers hunt bargains on Singles Day, a holiday invented in the 1990s that has become the world's busiest day for online commerce. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING – Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com reported nearly $70 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 Nov. 11 because the date is written with four singles - "11 11."

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

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

Alibaba said sales by merchants on its platforms totaled 268.4 billion yuan ($38.3 billion) for the 24 hours ending at midnight Monday after passing its 2018 total before 6 p.m. JD.com said its sales were 204.4 billion yuan ($29.1 billion).