Day we made a sale a second to the Chinese: British brands cash in on £16bn Singles Day

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Shopping spree: Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma with Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson

British businesses sold more than one item a second as Chinese customers splurged on cut-price goods during the world’s biggest ever day of shopping.

Royal Mail, hair-product maker Tangle Teezer, Holland & Barrett, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s were just a few of the quintessentially British names that raked in millions during the blockbuster shopping holiday called Singles Day.

While almost unknown in the West until recently, the event, which takes place on November 11 every year, surpassed Black Friday and Boxing Day sales and was expected to clock up £16billion of business by the end of the day.

The shopping frenzy, which was launched yesterday by David and Victoria Beckham and Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson, has been ramped up by giant shopping website Alibaba, run by billionaire Jack Ma (pictured with Johansson, right).

Dozens of British brands now sell to Chinese consumers through its site, and many of these use Royal Mail’s Chinese delivery service.

Companies are tapping into a growing demand among the Chinese to mimic Western styles and habits.

While the overall figures for the 24-hour bonanza were still being calculated last night, more than 7,000 orders were made on Royal Mail’s page in the first 100 minutes of the sale – more than one a second, and a record for the delivery company.

Customers were particularly attracted to maternity wear, food and healthcare items – with honey and Grow Gorgeous hair growth products selling particularly well. British hair products in general proved successful.

Tangle Teezer, which makes a brush that unknots hair, said it sold £700,000-worth of products in the first ten minutes yesterday. It has launched a collaboration with designer Lulu Guinness exclusively for the sale.

Health food store Holland & Barrett was hoping sales topped £1million. Waitrose, which began selling items to China earlier this year, said the Chinese had been buying the maple and nut muesli it normally offers in UK stores for £4.99 a kilo.

Its honey and red wine were particularly popular, reflecting the Western influence on Chinese eating and drinking habits.

The Hut Group, a website which sells UK brands to Chinese customers, offered its MyProtein sports and nutrition supplement on the Alibaba website, selling £100,000 worth in the first hour.

Singles Day began as a joke in 1993 after a group of university students decided they wanted an occasion to treat themselves as couples would on Valentine’s day.

James Hardy, boss of internet commerce firm Avenue51, said: ‘Once again, Singles Day made every other ecommerce festival around the world look insignificant by comparison.’