A visitor to the command center for Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com stands near a digital map showing the flow of deliveries across the country in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Chinese consumers are spending billions of dollars shopping online for anything from diapers to diamonds on "Singles Day," a day of promotions that has grown into the world's biggest e-commerce event. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Chinese spend billions online shopping on 'Singles Day'

November 11, 2017 - 4:48 am

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese consumers are spending billions of dollars shopping online for anything from diapers to diamonds on "Singles Day," a day of promotions that has grown into the world's biggest e-commerce event.

China's biggest e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group, said sales by retailers on its platforms had exceeded $19 billion by mid-afternoon Saturday in a count that started at midnight Friday.

Its main rival, online retailer JD.com, which tracks transactions starting from Nov. 1 through to the actual day, said sales had topped $16.7 billion.

Starting at midnight, diamonds, Chilean frozen salmon, tires, diapers, beer, shoes, handbags, and appliances were shipped out from JD.com's distribution centers on trucks bound for deliveries across China.

China is already the world's largest e-commerce market and the share of online-shopping that makes up all consumer spending grows every year. Boston Consulting Group forecasts online spending will rise by 20 percent a year, hitting $1.6 trillion by 2020, compared with 6 percent growth for off-line retail.

Singles Day was begun by Chinese college students in the 1990s as a version of Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners.

Zhang Jingjing, 30-year-old clerk for an engineering company, prepared for Singles Day by building a shopping list on Alibaba's retail platform Tmall and watching for when prices dip. She then clicks and snags a long-sought item at a discount.

"I have often emptied my 'shopping cart' on Singles Day," Zheng said. "I have been watching those goods for a long time and know very well their original prices."

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. China has 731 million internet users, up 6 percent from 2016, according to government statistics.

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Associated Press news assistant Liu Zheng contributed to this report.

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