$400k a second: NZ companies get in on China's mammoth '11-11' sale

A massive shopping festival has begun in China and is on track to break its own NZ$35 billion record for the world's biggest 24-hour sale.

The '11.11' sale, led by e-commerce giant Alibaba, involves 180,000 brands from 75 countries - including little old New Zealand.

The countdown begins on a huge data screen for a sale of truly colossal proportions.

A whopping 17,000 shoppers packed into the Mercedes-Benz Arena for Alibaba's '11.11 Global Shopping Festival' - the big screen tallying what is by far the biggest sale day in the world.

Held every year on November 11, 11-11 sees 180,000 brands offer sales to 800 million consumers.

Among them is a small group of New Zealand companies, already seeing a huge windfall since the sale began 11 hours ago.

The day is a celebration of 'singles', a kind of 'anti-valentine's day' that encourages lonely people to buy themselves a gift.

This year, there's a big focus on bringing in high-quality products from foreign countries like New Zealand.

"Today in China there are 300 million middle-class people, and among that 100 million 'new middle class' - and those people are young people," said Maggie Zhou, of Alibaba Australia and New Zealand.

"They love to explore more and want to buy more high-quality products, especially from New Zealand."

The tally on the big screen is expected to reach astronomical figures by the end of the day. Put it this way: every second, another NZ$400,000 rolls in.

That puts extreme pressure on the world's distribution systems, with numerous transactions already recorded across the world.

China's 11-11 entertainment extravaganza proves that sometimes, the way to master the art of the sale, is turning sales into art.