Eight minutes. That was how long it took Alibaba to hit $1 billion in sales today on Single's Day, China's Black Friday equivalent. By midday, that amount had crossed US$9 billion, equalling Alibaba's take for the whole day last year. China's second largest e-commerce company, JD.com, has recorded 14 million orders thus far. Single's Day is the biggest online shopping day in the world, with several billion dollars worth of e-commerce transactions taking place. The International Data Corporation (IDC) told CNET that this year's sales will surpass $14 billion, which equates to over AU$20 billion or £9 billion. To put that into perspective, last year Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales in the US amounted to a relatively paltry US$2.5 billion. The origin of the day is something that is uniquely Chinese. It was invented in the 1990's as sort of an anti-Valentine's Day, encouraging single citizens to sooth their lonely hearts through retail therapy. Alibaba chairman Jack Ma flagged off the event with a massive bash in Beijing that saw American Idol alum Adam Lambert perform and Kevin Spacey, in character as the President Frank Underwood from Netflix's House of Cards, deliver a personal message to Chinese shoppers. The result of this insane day of shopping has been felt around the world, with companies like Bellamy's, an Australian producer of items like milk powder, running out of stock in its native country to feed the Chinese appetite for the product.