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Black Friday 2018 won't come close to China’s record breaking Singles Day sale

Mark your calendars. Nov. 11 is the day when all shopping records are broken.

Xinhua Headlines: China's digital economy on the rise: new engine, new opportunities
Alibaba's Singles Day sales is much much bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Black Friday -- and Cyber Monday -- is a great invention because we get to go crazy buying stuff at lower prices. But you know what's even better?

Alibaba's Singles Day shopping bonanza.

Called the 11/11 Global Shopping Festival, it's an annual 24-hour online shopping spree of sorts by the Chinese internet giant which falls on Nov. 11, otherwise known as Singles Day in China because of its collection of ones.

It's essentially Asia's version of Black Friday created by Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang in 2009 to draw buyers to Alibaba's shopping platform, Tmall. But simply calling the extravaganza an Asian take on Black Friday is doing it injustice. It's much much bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

This year Single's Day was bigger than ever. Alibaba said sales hit $10 billion in the first hour. It crossed the $1 billion milestone in just 1 minute 25 seconds. After 15 hours, it broke last year's final tally and by the end of the 24-hour sale, shoppers had contributed to a whopping $30.8 billion in sales with over 1 billion delivery orders made. 

The event grew 27 percent year-on-year, which means it has slowed -- it was 39 percent last year -- but it nevertheless continues to be a giant affair for the international shopping scene. People were buying things not just from China, but also Japan, US, Korea, Australia, Germany and UK, among others.

Singles Day was chosen by Zhang to host the event because he thought it'd reduce feelings of being alone if lonely hearts can enjoy buying themselves great stuff online. But this has little to do with being single and a lot more to do with getting you -- single or not -- to part with your moolah on the internet.

180,000 Chinese and international brands celebrated the 10th 11/11 shopping spree this year with goods offered at atomised prices. Think pizza combos under $4 and KFC meals under $2 (it's lunch as I write this), or even last-minute winter and Christmas shopping at a steal.

The gala was so huge that Alibaba founder Jack Ma chose to debut his 22-minute short film featuring A-list Chinese actors such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen there last year. It's not a Chinese-only event though. Circus group Cirque du Soleil joined Mariah Carey, Miranda Kerr and pop stars Jay Chou and Coco Lee at this year's gala.

Despite the popularity of 11/11, not everyone's on board yet. I asked my mom if she had planned a sale event for her shop on Nov 11, but she told me no.

"Do you know what 11/11 implies in Hokkien," she asked me.

"Yao xi, starve to death."

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This story was originally published November 9.

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