Alibaba prepares a grand retail experiment for Singles' Day

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The shopping day was supposedly started by university students in the 1990s, celebrating their bachelordom by buying themselves presents. The price refers to the date of the retail event, where online shops slash prices on 11 November each year, a date chosen for its collection of lonely number ones. Over the years it has transformed into a huge sales event with sites like AliBaba generating roughly $18 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. This year, Amazon recorded a record $1 billion in sales for its made up holiday and it was the largest single day for sales in the company's history.

Shoppers from at least 192 countries and regions swarmed the e-commerce giant to scoop up discounted lobster, iPhones and refrigerators.

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Joe Tsai, co-founder and vice-chairman of Alibaba Group, told 700 reporters from all over the world in Shanghai that a total of 140,000 brands are taking part this year, up 40 per cent from last year.

Alibaba Group is the publisher of The South China Morning Post.

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To that end, Alibaba teams fanned out across the nation ahead of Nov 11 to help outlets upgrade systems to better track inventory. Alibaba has not only transformed consumer behavior in China, but merchant behavior as well. The Chinese company hosted a star-studded gala enlisting tennis star Maria Sharapova and American rapper Pharrell Williams to pump sales. For example, previous year viewers were able to win clothing won by stars or collect the traditional Chinese "red packets" via their smartphones while they watched the gala. Overall, 1,000 brands, including Gap, Vero Moda and C&A in 334 cities will convert their stores into to 100,000 iStore locations for 11.11.

Other retailers will be trying to replicate Alibaba's success on Singles Day.

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