CHINA’S Singles’ Day has become the world’s biggest shopping extravaganza, attracting millions of bargain-hunters, single or otherwise.
Here’s everything you need to know about the annual event that has eclipsed Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
When is Singles’ Day?
Since it started in 2009, Singles’ Day has become almost four-times larger than Cyber Monday, the biggest shopping day in the US calendar.
Now promoted by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the event is held annually on November 11 and has also smashed sales records for Black Friday.
More than twice as many goods are sold over the 24-hour period than during the five-day US holiday buying spree that ends on Cyber Monday, December 2.
Alibaba set a new Singles’ Day record in 2018 with more than $30.8billion in sales in 24 hours.
That topped the $25.3billion record set in 2017.
Why is it called Singles’ Day?
Singles’ Day is said to have been started by bachelor students in the 1990s, the idea being to buy themselves presents to celebrate being single.
The date 11/11 – also written 11:11- was picked because the digits represent a collection of lonely ones, or “bare branches”, the Chinese expression for the unattached.
During the nineties, the event became an “anti-Valentine’s day” celebration on university campuses in China.
Now the day has become a shopping frenzy. Alibaba even flies celebrities to Shanghai to perform at a televised gala to mark the start of Singles’ Day.
Past guests have included David and Victoria Beckham, Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman.
Why does Singles’ Day revolve around shopping and how does it compare to Black Friday?
As Alibaba’s billionaire co-founder Jack Ma started building the company, he latched on to the idea of revolving a shopping event around a holiday.
Early on, the company’s marketing encouraged customers to treat themselves in celebration of being single – but the day targets those who are in relationships, too.
Although Alibaba – the Chinese equivalent of Amazon – was the first to link Singles’ Day to consumerism, other companies have also jumped on the bandwagon, with JD.com Inc, Vipshop Holdings Ltd and Amazon.com Inc also offering promotions.
Last year, 140,000 brands took part in the shopping festival – more than 40 per cent more participants than the previous year.
Retailers care about Singles’ Day because “if you win China, you win the world”.
Black Friday shoppers purchase gifts at a discount ahead of the year-end holidays, including Christmas.
In China, Black Friday shoppers focus on buying overseas products at reduced prices.
The 11.11 retail affair has become big business. Chinese retailers raked in $17.8bn (£14.2bn) in 24 hours in 2016, triple the $5.9bn (£4.5billion) spent on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving combined in the US.
For retailers, 11.11 is the ideal opportunity to muscle in on the Chinese market.
A number of British brands, including Whittard of Chelsea, Marks & Spencer, Asos and Waitrose, already have marketplaces on Alibaba’s Tmall site.