Valentine’s Day can be a lonely time if you don’t have a partner. But, at least in China, there’s a holiday that celebrates singledom too. Aptly named Singles’ Day, the unofficial holiday is a multi-billion dollar sales event bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, and it’s happening this weekend.
The annual celebration is always on November 11 – or 11/11, a date chosen for its likeness to “bare sticks”, which is Chinese slang for bachelors. Although it was conceived in the 1990s by a group of college students protesting traditional couple-centric festivals, the event’s exponential growth is all down to China’s number one e-commerce site, Alibaba.
In 2009 the retail giant took Singles’ Day and promoted it as an opportunity for consumers to splurge on gifts to themselves, offering steep discounts through its consumer shopping site, Tmall.
That first year, the gross merchandise value (GMV) of goods ordered during the sales period clocked in at $7.5 million. Even though GMV is a questionable metric, since it doesn’t necessarily reflect net revenues, the figure’s sensational growth is worth noting.
Within eight years, Singles’ Day GMV had ballooned to over 3,000 times its 2009 level, hitting $25.3 billion in 2017 with Chinese consumers racking up $1 billion of purchases in just the first two minutes of Singles’ Day. For comparison, it took Amazon 30 hours to cinch that same value during its Amazon Prime Day sales the same year.
Alibaba combines online shopping discounts with offline entertainment to give its Singles’ Day sales a boost. Since 2015, it has hosted extravagant annual galas to launch the day’s festivities. These televised events draw in an audience of around 200 million viewers, who tune in to catch product launches, win prizes, and witness A-list celebrities make bewildering appearances.
2 minutes to make a billion dollars worth of sales on a artifically created holiday designed to sell products, just wow