The Chinese seriously love shopping. And discounts.

E-commerce giant Alibaba holds the 11.11 Shopping Festival for 24 hours on November 11 — China’s answer to America’s Cyber Monday shopping bonanza. Last year it brought in a whopping $3.1 billion (CNY19.1 billion) in sales on the day, smashing the record of Cyber Monday sales of $1.98 billion last year.

This year, with nearly half a day more to go, Chinese shoppers have already notched another jaw-dropping achievement for Alibaba: the amount of sales has hit last year’s total.

The event got off to a strong start when it kicked off at midnight in China. In the first six minutes, consumers had already spent more than RMB1 billion ($164 million), as recorded by transactions made on Alipay — a milestone that took 37 minutes to hit last year. Within the first hour, the total amount of transactions made via Alipay was over RMB6 billion (nearly $1 billion), with the fashion category making up about half of the sales.

In a sign of how Chinese shoppers are increasingly accessing their mobile devices for all forms of activities, mobile transactions on Alipay crossed CNY100 million ($16.4 million) in the first 4 minutes of the 11.11 Shopping Festival.

More than 20,000 merchants, including brands like Gap and Uniqlo, offered massive discounts on products spanning electronics, household wares and apparel.

However, the brand that’s been hogging the spotlight is red-hot Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, which became one of the first brands to hit CNY100 million ($16.4 million) in sales — within a mere three minutes.

As of 1.05pm local time in China, Xiaomi became the first to reach CNY500 million ($82 million) in sales. In a ranking of products that have brought in the most money, Xiaomi’s handsets took the top four spots — with its latest flagship device Mi-3 at number one. The 110,000 Mi-3 smartphones up for sale were snapped up in a mere two minutes.

Headline image via Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images