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Singles’ Day sales to hit $20b this year

Similar to the UK and US shopping day Black Friday, Chinese online retailers will offer a slew of promotions on Nov 11, and could generate up to $20 billion sales this year, a 40 percent increase on last year’s gross merchandise volume of $14.3 billion, according to Fung Global Retail Technology. The 2015 figure represented a year-on-year increase of 54 percent.

This year, more British online retailers are joining in with specific offers targeted at China.

In terms of online sales volumes, Singles Day dwarfs Black Friday, the shopping holiday that unofficially marks the start of Christmas shopping in the United Kingdom and United States, falling on Nov 25 this year. Last year, Britons spent $1.35 billion and Americans spent $5.8 billion online over Black Friday and its web-based equivalent Cyber Monday.

Fung Global said its 2016 forecast was driven by a tailwind from Chinese online shoppers’ demand for overseas goods and by expectations for Alibaba’s extensive marketing campaign, which this year exploits virtual and augmented reality features.

British supermarket chain Sainsbury Plc has used a virtual reality promotion tool on Alibaba’s online store Tmall in August. Sainsbury’s reached top spot on Tmall in terms of orders during a one-and-a-half hour 360-degree live broadcast of its supermarkets in London. The event was the second most popular promotion since Sainsbury’s live broadcasted an afternoon tea party on the Queen’s birthday.

Alibaba will pilot Buy+, a VR headset which will allow shoppers to walk around simulations of bricks-and-mortar stores in locations around the globe, simply nodding to confirm purchase of items. Macy’s Inc’s flagship store in New York is among participating retailers.