Singles Day… just what is this, and why is it important to the economy in China
(and, increasingly, across the world)?
Singles Day falls on 11th November, and is a huge online buying bonanza that breaks records year on year. In 2018, it took only two minutes and five seconds for one site, Tsmall, to not only reach but burst straight through the 10bn yuan threshold for sales. Not only was this an impressive record to reach, but it is even more incredible when you think that this was one third less time than it took in 2017.
What Is Singles Day?
Singles Day has a couple of different origin stories. The first is that is was begun way back in 1993 at Nanjing University
. It was meant for students to celebrate being single. How exactly this once small and now enormous celebration became synonymous with online shopping isn’t exactly clear, but it was 2009 when Daniel Zhang the CEO of Alibaba
, launched the idea online – that there would be great bargains to be had and lots of discounts given on 11th November – Singles Day.
By 2017, Alibaba was handling 265,000 transactions each second, and shopping 775 million parcels in just this 24 hour period alone.
How Did It Grow?
Part of the growth of Singles Day has to be attributed to the growth of China’s population; there are over 1.4billion
people, and many of them now have smartphones that mean they can access online shopping (and all the bargains to be had) whenever they want to.
However, Alibaba also marketed the event cleverly. Not only did it use celebrities to spread awareness and offer a countdown to Singles Day (these included Pharrell Williams and Nicole Kidman, for example), but it also utilised live streaming of fashion shows and other events that showed people exactly what they would be able to buy on the day itself. This generated huge excitement, and by the time 11th November rolled around, many people in China were more than ready to spend, spend, spend.
Strong Staying Power
Now that Singles Day is in its 10th year, and the signs are that, already, excitement is mounting for the 2019 event, we can see that any scare stories about the economy, about the fact that people are buying less and trying to save more, about how the economy will fail, are not necessarily holding true.
The very fact that Singles Day is so important to an increasing number of people – both traders and consumers – is proof that, no matter what may or may not be happening in the world, people still enjoy grabbing a bargain, and they still want something to look forward to. For western-led examples just look at Black Friday and Cyber Monday; people are buying items they don’t even need just because the prices are a little more friendly. Spending is most definitely in.
With such a great record in the past, it is predicted that Tsmall will be able to reach – and most probably surpass – 200bn yuan on 2019’s Singles Day. And it’s not just domestic products that do well. Sales from imported goods
have been noticeably increasing over the years that Singles Day has been running.
But really, what sells, no matter where it is from, whether domestic or imported, is quality. It is this above all else that drives the sales because the discounts are often so impressive. It means that everyone can enjoy a little slice of luxury in their lives if they are willing to wait until 11th November to buy it. And many – many millions or more – are absolutely willing to wait.
For some firms, such as Mondelez China (the company that makes the Oreo cookie), Singles Day isn’t (just) about selling a lot of goods and making a lot of money. It’s also – and sometimes more importantly – about trialling new ideas at a time when people are more likely to be open to them.
When everyone is in a spending mood, they might be keener to try something new – and why not? If they are saving money, or waiting for Singles Day to come round, the idea of buying something when they don’t know if they’ll like it or not may not appeal quite so much. Caught up in the thrill of 11th November, anything seems to go – and go quickly.