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Singles Day in China, also known as Double 11, is rumoured to have been started in 1993 by four university bachelors as a kind of protest against Valentine’s Day and to celebrate the unattached. The event was originally created by online retailer Alibaba and can be compared to annual shopping extravaganzas such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Singles Day tops them all in terms of sales, it’s simply the world's biggest online shopping event.
How is Singles Day celebrated in China? It’s sometimes an excuse for single friends to get together and party or to try out dating. It’s also seen as an auspicious day to do something decidedly anti-single, like have a wedding. In fact, it was reported that 4,000 couples applied to tie the knot in Beijing on the ultimate Singles’ Day of November 11th, 2011, five times more than the city’s average daily weddings.
The logistics network set up to handle the event this year with minimal human interaction was both intricate and phenomenal in equal measure. Last year it involved around 3 million people and 4 thousand planes and ships, resulting in nearly 2 billion items ordered and delivered. This year, records were smashed once again when the annual sale racked up an incredible $74 billion in spends over 11 days. Brands such as Prada and Balenciaga made their first appearance, joining around 200 luxury brands for the event, more than doubling last year's figure. More than 2,600 new overseas brands also made their debut, allowing imported goods to become a big hit.
Last year it was pet food, health care and beauty products that were top of the charts, but this year vitamins, air purifiers, robot cleaners, vacuums and toolboxes were predicted to be the best-selling products, highlighting the shift in consumer behaviour and the resulting trends.
Normally it’s a 24-hour event but, with Alibaba as one of the pioneers, this year some companies increased the span to several days. The decision to extend the event was down to a couple of factors. People have displayed new shopping habits due to the pandemic and with customers unable to travel abroad, luxury goods are in high demand. Anti-trust legislation due to come out in China also spurred companies on to extend the event.
Despite healthy sales figures, Alibaba and other Chinese internet giants have been told that they will face new anti-trust regulations by the government, aimed at curbing their powers. There has been a subsequent sell-off in tech stocks because of the news of a potential vaccine and due to the potential breaking up of some of the tech giants with big monopolies in China, causing share prices to plummet. Singles Day was an opportunity to maximise the selling opportunities before new rules and ramifications come into force and affect their profits, and with two million new products offered, businesses were going for gold.
China is moving from being an emerging economy to a world super-power. Increased affluence and pent up demand have led to a frenzy for luxury goods. Singles Day could be seen as a gauge of the health of the Chinese economy as it emerges from the pandemic. Coronavirus seems to be broadly under control in China and the country appears to be coming out of the devastation caused to the economy ahead of the United States. Singles Day also gives some indication about the strength of the Chinese consumer.
How will Black Friday and Cyber Monday compare? How is the US emerging from the pandemic? Is there the same level of disposable income in the US compared to China? And is the consumer appetite as strong? All will be revealed…
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