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This may go down as the biggest shopping event in the history of the world.

Over the past 23 hours and 13 minutes, Chinese consumers have flooded Alibaba’s marketplaces, buying more than $9 billion worth of merchandise, also referred to as Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV).

What’s the occasion?

It’s the 11.11 Shopping Festival, also called Singles Day, which is a celebration for people who are single. Typically, on this day, young Chinese people meet up to celebrate the day, and now shop for huge discounts. The day always falls on Nov. 11 (or 11/11) because of the connection with the number “1.”

With the company set to exceed $9 billion with 47 minutes left on the clock, it will easily beat some expectations for the day. We’ll update the story when the final tally is reported. Update: Alibaba says total sales hit a staggering 57.1 billion yuan, or $9.3 billion over the past 24 hours.

Expectations were sky high for the newly IPO’d company.

As we reported yesterday, one analyst was estimating the company to record about 50 billion yuan ($8.17 billion), a 40 percent increase from last year, and another more bullish analyst was estimating that sales could top 60 billion yuan ($9.8 billion). Last year, Alibaba Group’s websites Taobao Marketplace and processed more than $5.8 billion in sales during the 24-hour period, which is roughly one-third more sales volume in a single day than the three biggest U.S. shopping days combined.

Alibaba counts down to 'Singles Day,' a blockbuster event for e-commerce.
Alibaba counts down to ‘Singles Day,’ a blockbuster event for e-commerce.

After just one hour yesterday, at the start of Nov. 11 local time, Alibaba said sales had exceeded $2 billion, demonstrating the buying power of consumers in Asia.

The closest we can come in the U.S. to understanding such a large online shopping day is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Online sales between Thanksgiving and the following Monday last year hit a staggering $3.64 billion, but now that only seems like a drop in the bucket for comparative sites, like Amazon and eBay.

Also impressive is how much of the sales are happening on mobile devices. The Chinese e-commerce giant said so far mobile GMV accounted for 42.6 percent of the $9 billion, Alibaba said.

Now the hard part begins. Over the next three days, Alibaba will ship approximately 216 million packages.

This morning shares of the 15-year-old company, which recently exceeded Walmart in value, are trading at $115.3 each this morning, down 3.3 percent after yesterday’s big rally.

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