Alibaba's China Singles Day Sales Dwarf Amazon Record, but New Antitrust Rules Loom

China's Singles Day sales have eclipsed Amazon's Cyber Monday record, ratcheting up $70 billion for the annual event by Wednesday morning.

Launched in 2009, the shopping extravaganza is held in November each year. It was originally billed by e-commerce giant Alibaba as an antidote to Valentine's Day. In its first iteration it was called Bachelors Day, celebrating people who are not in relationships.

Each year Chinese shoppers set new records for spending. Last year, despite an economic slowdown and worries over the U.S. trade war, Alibaba said consumers spent $38.3 billion on its platforms, with state media calling it a sign of China's rising economic strength. This was up 26 percent from the previous high set in 2018.

This year, the running total, announced just before the event closed, showed Alibaba had already sold 20 times as much through third-party sellers as Amazon did in its Prime Day sale in October.

Singles Day typically generates a lot of hype and this year was accompanied by a livestream performance from singer Katy Perry.

This year 3 million workers were needed to pack boxes and fill orders, which were transported by 4,000 planes and ships.

More than 340 different firms, including U.S. retailers Apple and Nike, racked up 100 million yuan ($15.1 million) in sales. Alibaba said 13 brands recorded more than 1 billion yuan gross merchandise volume.

Although this was positive news for the business, after COVID-19 shutdowns threatened to dampen sales, China's competition authorities announced proposals this week to tackle monopolies in the sector.

Like other nations, China is re-evaluating the way it regulates internet companies. Both the EU and the U.S. have resolved to look into how internet companies operate on their turf.

The Chinese proposals aim to give guidelines on how the country's 2008 anti-monopoly laws are applied to online retailers such as Alibaba and its rival JD.com. The plans cited areas where regulators might look for issues, such as the sharing of information and competitive pricing.

Despite the fact that neither JD.com nor Alibaba were directly accused of wrongdoing, their share prices slid as much as 8% on Wednesday.

The antitrust challenge comes about a week after Alibaba's financial technology affiliate Ant Group lost around a tenth of its market value after regulators pulled its initial public offering.

Singles Day china
Workers sort packages at a delivery company after Singles Day—the world's biggest 24-hour shopping event—in Yangzhou in China's eastern Jiangsu province on November 13, 2019. STR/AFP via Getty Images