World’s Biggest Online Shopping Site Isn’t Amazon

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Amazon doesn't even come close. On the Chinese version of Black Friday, consumers spend more at this site than Americans spend anywhere online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

In the U.S., Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. In China, it’s basically Black Friday.

And it’s all done on one online shopping platform that dwarfs Amazon, called Alibaba. Last year its sites called Taobao and Tmall handled $160 billion in merchandise, The Wall Street Journal says — more than Amazon and eBay combined, even though it only made about one-fifth of eBay’s profit.

Like Amazon, Alibaba has a marketplace full of small business sellers offering all kinds of stuff, along with name brands you’d recognize, such as Nike or Gap. Yahoo owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba.

Last year Alibaba’s Nov. 11 sales totaled $3.1 billion, the WSJ says. That’s more than the combined $2.5 billion generated by Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. This year’s sales were even bigger: about $5 billion, according to The New York Times. And five years ago the event didn’t even exist.

This Chinese shopping tradition started in 2009, the WSJ says, when a couple dozen merchants banded together and offered simultaneous discounts to boost sales. It happens to fall on a Chinese holiday called Single’s Day, when people laugh or cry about their relationship status. (Get it? The date, 11/11, has four singles.)

It’s a sign of how fast online shopping has taken off there. “Chinese consumers are predicted to spend $290 billion at online retail sites this year, compared with $260 billion for their United States counterparts,” the Times says. And Alibaba currently accounts for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of online retail sales there.

Stacy Johnson

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