Move over, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The world has a new shopping frenzy and it’s much, much bigger than either of these.
Singles’ Day, the Chinese holiday celebrated on November 11, began humbly enough as an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration of lack of attachment. The date, 11/11, was chosen because the number "1" resembles an individual who is, well, alone.
But since 2009, China’s e-commerce players have used the revelry to drum up online sales, effectively morphing Singles’ Day into an online shopping extravaganza in which people buy gifts for themselves.
Alibaba, the so-called "Amazon of China", made sales of more than US$14bn in the 24-hour sale last year. This exceeds the $11.1bn spent online in the US over the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, which includes Black Friday, when retailers officially kick off the festive trading season.
The e-commerce giant’s celebrations for the one-day event this year — apart from steep discounts — will feature a performance by US pop star Katy Perry, an appearance by former Lakers player Kobe Bryant and a live-streamed fashion show in Shanghai that allows viewers to pre order items as they appear on the catwalk.
China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, generating revenue of $615bn last year. This is about the same as Europe and the US combined, according to consulting group McKinsey.
In founder Jack Ma’s quest for retail domination, Alibaba is expanding Singles’ Day beyond mainland China this year.