An online shopping holiday that originated on the Chinese mainland has spread to Taiwan, with intense media coverage and major shopping websites launching major sales.
Leading e-shopping websites on the island, including Yahoo, Rakuten and GOMAJI, held Singles' Day sales on Wednesday, emulating the mainland's shopping binge on platforms such as Taobao and JD.
Yahoo is offering discounts of up to 50 percent for the next 10 days, while Japan-based Rakuten featured more than 10,000 discounted items from about 400 vendors, including Apple products. Taiwan-based ET Mall promoted merchandise with discounts of up to 11 percent, and GOMAJI handed out coupons worth 8 million New Taiwan dollars (244,000 U.S. dollars).
Posters for Singles' Day sales were seen at subway stations in Taipei and on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
Taiwan media covered the mainland's online shopping splurge, with news channels reporting on a Tuesday evening TV gala hosted by Alibaba, the mainland's leading e-shopping platform.
Singles' Day started as an excuse for the unattached to celebrate -- or poke fun at -- their status in the 1990s, but it has evolved into an online shopping spectacle for everyone as e-commerce companies court discount-savvy online shoppers.
This year, in the first twelve-and-a-half minutes after midnight on Wednesday, Alibaba recorded sales of 10 billion yuan (1.57 bln U.S. dollars). Last year, it took 38 minutes to hit the 10 bln yuan mark. The company is expected to easily break last year's one-day sales record of 57.1 bln yuan. Taiwan's e-shopping sites are hoping for similar success.
Rakuten announced in a press release Wednesday afternoon that visits to its website increased by 50 percent from the previous day, and sales doubled for high-end electronics, such as cell phones and digital cameras.
As one of the earliest e-shopping sites to follow the mainland craze, Yahoo launched a similar campaign last year and reported total sales nearly four times the average.
Mainland e-commerce companies have wooed overseas consumers. Taobao launched a special platform for the day for shoppers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, promising fast and reliable delivery.
Taiwan customs has even set up a special squad to cope with the increase in imported goods during and after Singles' Day, the agency said late last month. Last year, the agency's Taipei office received about 1.51 million applications for customs clearance of small imported goods, believed to be caused by Singles' Day shopping.
However, some local consumers were reluctant to buy from mainland websites. A survey conducted by the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute, a Taipei think tank, showed that 37 percent of 313 respondents said they were interested but cautious about shopping on mainland websites, while 33 percent said they would purchase and 30 percent said they would not.
The survey showed 30 percent of them would shop on Taiwan e-commerce websites on Nov. 11.
Lyu Mei-rong, a civil servant, told Xinhua that she will shop on local websites, but is hesitant to use mainland platforms.
"Singles' Day shopping is big news. Everybody in my office has been talking about it today," she said. "But I have not shopped on Taobao before, and I worry about how to get the goods delivered to Taiwan."
But Lyu said she might try since some friends had bought things from mainland sites without any trouble.
The mainland and Taiwan signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010, which reduced tariffs on goods moving between the two sides and encouraged more small businesses in Taiwan to set up shop on Taobao.
Ant Financial, Alibaba's financial service affiliate, announced last month that Alipay, the electronic payment platform owned by Alibaba, has received approval to launch a payment service in Taiwan in the fourth quarter of this year. Its launch is expected to facilitate cross-Strait online shopping.