In a sign that China's economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce giants Alibaba (BABA -4.76%) and (JD -5.93%) announced that they recorded record sales during their 618 shopping event yesterday.

Named because it's held on June 18, the 618 sales extravaganza was started by in response to Alibaba's massive 11-11 sales event held in November. The two Chinese online sales leaders participate now on both days.

Two women looking at smartphone and laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

A record-setting event

The combined sales from the 18-day shopping event that came to an end yesterday totaled $136 billion, with Alibaba pulling in around $98 billion and $38 billion. That is 33% higher than realized last year.

Alibaba pulled in $38 billion during its 11-11 event in 2019, which lasts just one day. That was a record haul, too, surpassing the $30.5 billion achieved in 2018, though Alibaba's Jack Ma considered it a disappointment at the time. In comparison, however, it surpassed by nearly two and a half times the combined sales realized in the U.S. on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, or $16.2 billion.

The mid-year sales event likely got a bigger boost not only because of pent up demand from the lockdowns China has ordered to control the spread of the coronavirus, but because shopping habits have transitioned to online ordering during the pandemic, spurred on by generous discounts the retailers offered.