What economic slowdown? Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the world's largest retailer and e-commerce company, reported a stunning gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $13 billion (CNY91.2 billion) during the first official hour of China's Singles' Day -- the world's largest offline and online shopping day -- that launched Monday morning, Beijing time.

This huge haul already represents 42 percent of Alibaba's total Singles' Day GMV in 2018 amounting to $30.8 billion. Total sales today clearly look set to eclipse analysts' expectations of a new record. The spending splurge also confirms China's battered economy is being kept afloat by ebullient consumer spending despite the doldrums caused by the trade war.

Alibaba launched this year’s 24 hour-long shopping madness with performances by American pop star Taylor Swift and local celebrities like Jackson Yee. Sales during China's Singles' Day, or 11.11 or Double 11, are traditionally larger than sales at the U.S. Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Alibaba began promoting Singles' Day as another day for love in 2009.

U.S. market research company Forrester said total combined e-commerce sales by all U.S. platforms on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2018 hit $14.2 billion, which was just 46 percent of Alibaba's total in that year.

Sales on Black Friday (including Thanksgiving) came to $8.2 billion while Cyber Monday netted $6 billion. This year’s Black Friday weekend is widely expected to set another record for U.S. e-commerce but won't come anywhere near Alibaba's record sales given the latter's first hour sales alone.

The U.S. Black Friday shopping frenzy this year will take place on Nov. 28 while Cyber Monday is scheduled for Dec. 2.

During Singles' Day in 2018, Alibaba delivered more than one billion packages during the 24-hour spending spree as hundreds of millions of Chinese spent lavishly on this day that started out in 1993 to celebrate bachelorhood but has since morphed into China's second Valentine's Day. Thousands of couples now marry on Singles' Day, which is a fact at odds with its name.

For this year’s Singles' Day, Forrester forecasts Alibaba will generate $37 billion in GMV, or a 20.5% jump compared to 2018. It also projects 50 million online buyers in Southeast Asia alone during Singles’ Day.

Other major Asian retailers such as Lazada, Shopee, JD.com and Rakuten also anticipate sales records. All the major Asian e-commerce players began rolling-out their Singles' Day preorder campaigns in October.

Alibaba launched its pre-orders Oct. 21. Shopee launched it own on Oct. 24 while JD.com set its preorder period from Oct. 18 to 31.

GMV refers to the total value of goods sold by a company across all its platforms.

Chinese Singles_Day_Shopping This chart shows Alibaba's GMV on Singles' Day vs. U.S. ecommerce sales on Thanksgiving weekend. Photo: Statista / IBT