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The world’s biggest online shopping day got off to a flyer on Monday with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba recording 1 billion yuan (£102.5m) in sales on its Tmall site in the first six minutes alone.

The 11.11 sales were first dreamt up back in 2009 as a way for merchants on the B2C site to make more money in the lull between the Chinese autumn festival holiday period and Christmas.

The date, for obvious symbolic reasons, is also known as “Singles Day” – a quasi-holiday for the country’s young single folk to celebrate their loneliness by organising parties and spending their hard-earned yuan in shops and online.

The day is already tipped to be a belter, with sales taking just six minutes to hit the 1bn yuan mark, as opposed to the 37 minutes it took last year, Alibaba said in a blog post.

The 11.11 sales in 2012 became the biggest shopping event in the world when over 19bn yuan (£1.9bn) was spent online, beating the $1.25bn (£781m) on Cyber Monday 2011 in the US.

According to Alibaba, domestic smartphone maker Xiaomi was among the first companies to hit 100m yuan (£10m) last year.

China’s leaders want the country to lead the world in e-commerce by 2015 with 18 trillion yuan (£1.8tr), which will require a quadrupling of sales from the 4.5 trillion yuan pulled in back in 2010.

A PwC report last year found that Chinese shoppers are twice as prolific online as their counterparts in the US and UK, with increasing numbers using mobile and social channels to purchase, demanding more from retailers' IT systems. ®

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