Alibaba said $2 billion of goods were sold in the first hour of its Singles Day shopping bonanza in China Tuesday, maintaining the day’s dominance as the world’s biggest retail event as it went global for the first time.

The ecommerce giant said that amount was more than a third of the $5.8 billion full-day sales recorded on the same day last year. Some 500 million packages are expected to be shipped during this year’s festival, up 50 percent from a year earlier, the state postal service told state media last month.

The big numbers started early, however, and Alibaba said it clocked its first $1 billion this year in less than 20 minutes — by 12.17am to be precise. That milestone is measured in the value of goods sold — gross merchandise volume, GMV — not actual revenue, however, but took it took one hour to clock the same figure last year.

The company went on to notch its second billion in GMV one hour and 12 seconds in the sales, and passed $10 billion seven and a half hours into the day. For comparison, Cyber Monday in the U.S. generated a record $2.29 billion in sales last year.


It’s interesting to note that 48 percent of that initial $1 billion in goods — and 46 percent of the first $2 billion — were bought using smartphones and tablets. That’s a hugely encouraging stat for Alibaba, which has had to adapt its business model and strategies recently to the huge growth in mobile internet usage in China.

It’s pretty clear that Singles’ Day 2014 is poised to break all records once again. Last year, Alibaba notched an 80 percent growth in sales compared to the shopping day in 2012, but this year it has widened its efforts behind Mainland China, with sales expanding worldwide. The company said early traffic was strongest from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the U.S. too.

Finally, to give you a sense of perspective: Alibaba estimates that 27,000 merchants and 42,000 brands will be involved in the 11/11 sales this year. That covers Tmall, Taobao, and also its AliExpress and Tmall Global services for customers outside of China.

Certainly Alibaba’s mega U.S. public listing has supercharged the event in the eyes of the media, but there are plenty of other players — including Nasdaq-listed and Amazon — that are also keen to grab a slice of the action.