Alibaba’s shopping holiday that’s bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined just brought in $25 billion — this is what it looked like

Nicole Kidman with with Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba Group, ahead of the company's Singles' Day global shopping festival on November 11.

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Nicole Kidman with with Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba Group, ahead of the company’s Singles’ Day global shopping festival on November 11.
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REUTERS/Aly Song

Since its early days as a student event in the 1990s, November 11 was called “Singles’ Day” in some parts of China, marking a day to celebrate people without partners.

Now, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has dubbed it “Double 11” – a term it has trademarked and transformed into the world’s largest shopping event. During this year’s Double 11, Alibaba sold $25.3 billion worth of merchandise.

Created in 2009 as an “anti-Valentine’s Day,” the “11-11 Global Shopping Festival” is now bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Encompassing a live-broadcast gala, virtual games, and an interactive fashion show, the 24-hour event has become a global extravaganza during which the company sells everything from American sneakers to South Korean washing machines to Argentinian shrimp.

Here’s how this year’s event unfolded.


Alibaba hosted a countdown gala in Shanghai that was broadcast live across China. David Hill, who has worked on Super Bowls and Oscars, produced the event.

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Alibaba

Source: Variety


The four-hour gala was held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Nearby, a giant screen tracked sales in real time — at one point there were 325,000 orders a second.

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Alibaba

Source: Markets Insider


Alibaba says a large number of preorders helped it notch $1 billion in sales in the first two minutes of the event.

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A screen shows the value of goods that people are buying.
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REUTERS/Aly Song

In this photo from 2016, staff members track orders in front of the countdown screen. This year, more than 140,000 brands and merchants took part, and nearly half were international.

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alibabagroup.com

Source: Forbes


Nicole Kidman and Maria Sharapova attended the festivities. In previous years, Scarlett Johansson and Katy Perry turned up on stage.

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Twitter

Pharrell Williams and Jessie J performed at this year’s gala.

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REUTERS/Aly Song

Gala watchers were also able to win more than $40 million in various prizes, including trips to Antarctica.

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Twitter

Source: South China Morning Post


Alibaba’s campus in China was also lit up with brightly colored lights to celebrate the day.

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Twitter

Only one hour left of #Double11 and things don't show any signs of slowing down!

A post shared by Alibaba Group (@alibaba.group) on


This photo shows the counter screen at Alibaba’s headquarters in 2013. The shopping festival began in 2009, when only 27 merchants participated.

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VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Source: The Guardian


Each year, beds and quilts are laid out at the Alibaba campus for the 24-hour sales event. This photo is of the company’s Xixi campus in 2016.

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REUTERS/Stringer

An aerial photograph of the quilts shows how many employees Alibaba prepares for.

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REUTERS/Stringer

A mascot for Tmall, a shopping website owned by Alibaba, was seen around Beijing in the week leading up to Singles’ Day. The sign says “Double 11 big sale.”


Bullet trains in the Guangdong province are also used to deliver bags of goods.

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REUTERS/Stringer

Staff members at warehouses, logistics centers, and courier companies are very busy on Singles’ Day. This year, the first parcel arrived at 12 minutes and 18 seconds past midnight.

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REUTERS/Stringer

Source: South China Morning Post