Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales surpassed the sales in 2015 with about nine hours left on the clock. However, the growth rate was markedly slower than last year, as buyers sought even bigger price cuts, notes Reuters. Last year sales totaled 91.2 billion yuan.

Alibaba
Image source: hinglish Notes – Flickr

Alibaba sets new record, but growth slows

Singles’ Day began in 2009 to motivate customers without a partner to treat themselves. A live sales tracker at the main event in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen surpassed the 2015 yuan total at 1519 p.m. (0719 GMT).

The sales growth rate was down from last year’s 60% amid sluggish personal income growth, a weaker economy and a more saturated online retail market, notes Reuters. In addition, the strong U.S. dollar hit the headline sales figure in dollar terms.

Still, this discount shopping day sells more products than Cyber Monday and Black Friday in the U.S. combined. This year sales on Alibaba’s platforms like Taobao and Tmall are expected to exceed $20 billion. Sports stars Kobe Bryant and David Beckham attended the “countdown gala” for this year Singles’ Day. Katy Perry, however, pulled out at the last minute due to a “family” issue.

175,000 orders per second in first hour

Alibaba’s sales reached a billion dollars in under five minutes amid the celebrity razzmatazz and fanfare. Within the first hour, sales passed $5 billion, which is three times faster than last year. What’s even more impressive is that the record sales come amid the ongoing U.S. accounting probe in Alibaba’s business and a domestic economic slowdown.

Alibaba reported that in the early hours of the day, deals offered by Siemens, Nike and Apple were among the top sellers with Chinese consumers. Among the top-selling local Chinese brands were smartphone maker Meizu and appliance manufacturers Midea and Haier.

In a live microblog posting on the Singles’ Day event, CEO Daniel Zhang said, “Back in 2013, 35 billion yuan ($5.14 billion) was our one-day GMV (gross merchandise volume). Now we can achieve it in one hour.”

GMV is the value of products sold by vendors via Alibaba’s platforms. Alibaba makes money by charging vendors a proportion of their sales and advertising.

Zhang said orders were coming in at a rate of 175,000 per second in the first hour of the 24-hour e-commerce sales event. Meanwhile, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans was pretty confident that Singles’ Day was “in a good place.”

Update: earlier version of the article incorrectly stated last year’s Singlse’s Day sales.