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Alibaba has broken its own record for sales on China’s Singles Day, the world’s biggest online shopping event.

The e-commerce giant said sales surpassed the record amount of $9.3 billion made last year in just over half the time.

Singles Day, also known as Double Eleven because it is held on November 11, has become a major annual event for Chinese retailers.

Alibaba said more than $1 billion was spent within eight minutes of midnight.

Within the first hour, Alibaba had made $3.9 billion in sales, almost double the amount spent in the same time period of the 2014 Singles Day.

In comparison, sales on Cyber Monday, which is the biggest online shopping day in the US, hit $1.35 billion, according to data analytics company ComScore.

Singles Day has grown tremendously since Alibaba began promoting it as a shopping day in 2009, and now includes many retailers such as rivals JD.com that stage sales promotions.

In 2015, Alibaba said there would be more than 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands from 25 countries selling goods on its platforms.

More than 130 million users have already visited Alibaba’s marketplace app, Taobao, which exceeds the peak from 2014.

In the lead up to the event, Alibaba hosted a four-hour TV variety show featuring Chinese celebrities and Western entertainers such as Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.Alibaba Singles Day 2015

Kevin Spacey appeared as his character President Frank Underwood from the Netflix series House of Cards to wish shoppers a “happy Singles’ Day” in a two minute video.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang had said in a statement that the event would mean “the whole world will witness the power of Chinese consumption”.

He promised consumers “a new surprise every hour” over the 24-hour marathon, especially mobile users.

Alibaba said more than 27 million purchases came via mobile devices in the first hour.

Although its competitors offered attractive discounts, Fangting Sun, China-based analyst at market research firm Euromonitor International said that consumers’ attention was still focused on Alibaba’s online marketplace Tmall.com.

Alibaba accounts for more than 80% of China’s internet sales market.

It predicts that 1.7 million couriers, 400,000 vehicles and 200 planes will be making deliveries of products that range from electronics goods to cosmetics despite slowing growth in China.

Economists will be looking for clues about domestic consumption in Wednesday’s sales as China’s economy, the world’s second-biggest, heads for its slowest growth in nearly a quarter of a century.

Cheap Apple Watch copies are being advertised on Alibaba’s Taobao, China’s most popular online shopping service.

Taobao site lists devices branded the AW08 and the iWatch.

They both feature “digital crown” dials on their sides, similar-styled straps and identical user interface graphics to Apple’s forthcoming wearable.

However, their listings reveal they run on Google’s Android platform rather than Apple’s Watch OS.Apple Watch copy Taobao

Taboao acts as a showcase for third-party sellers – much like eBay and Amazon’s Marketplace service – and some vendors have taken pains to make clear that the devices they are selling are not Apple’s own technology.

The copycats first came to light in January, when a reporter from the news site Mashable discovered one being displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Other giveaways that the watches are not the iPhone’s official “companion” include:

  • They are being offered for about 258 yuan ($40) – a fraction of the 2,588 yuan that Apple will charge for its smartwatch in China when it goes on sale next month
  • They do not feature the same heart-monitoring sensors on their rear – although this is not always made clear
  • They boast longer battery life [youtube p1X8Vc5pfoU 650]