Thursday 20 October 2016 7:08 pm

China's Alibaba begins its countdown to the world's biggest shopping day of the year – Singles' Day

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has started the countdown to its shopping festival Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest sales event of the year.

The retailer has promised consumers a bonanza of pop stars, fashion shows, and virtual reality to whip them into a spending frenzy.

The annual celebration of being single – now in to its seventh year – has already eclipsed the combined sales of the US-inspired Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Alibaba has branded the day, which falls on 11 November each year, Global Shopping Festival, as it tries to export the Chinese celebration to the rest of the world.

Singles Day last year helped Chinese retailers rake in £9.4bn over just 24 hours. This year the digital titan is planning to break that record by using technology to bridge the gap between its online and offline stores and its global and domestic businesses.

“From today through 11 November, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group.

“Leveraging our robust infrastructure, global merchants have been empowered with unprecedented capability to seamlessly engage and serve customers through new technology and new environments.”

Katy Perry, who has also been signed up as the global ambassador to the festival, will headline a finale gala ahead of the big day on 10 November but until then there will be a three-week parade of events designed to drive consumer interest.

On 23 October Chinese wholesale retailer Tmall will host an eight-hour fashion show in Shanghai that will be streamed live via mobile apps that let viewers pre-order items as they appear on the catwalk.

The event has not been free of scrutiny however. Alibaba’s accounting practices for the event have been the subject of an investigation by the US regulator, after questions were raised over whether sales from the event are really as high as reported.

Goods are offered at discount prices leading up to the big day but all of the transactions only go through on the day itself.