As the pre-holiday sale season gets well underway in the UK, a Chinese shopping phenomenon is taking place that dwarfs the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. It’s Singles’ Day!
Singles’ Day is the world’s biggest online sales event. The greatness of Singles’ Day is not the brainchild of a team of contestants on The Apprentice, circa 2008. Rather, it began in the 1990s as a novelty student holiday to celebrate being single. It has now grown into a month-long shopping extravaganza that peaks with a 24-hour sale on November 11 – hence its alternative nickname, ‘11/11’. What began as an anti-Valentine’s Day movement was taken on by Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma, and has been transformed into the biggest shopping day in the world. Alibaba’s sales from the 24-hour event this year reached a record 213.5 billion yuan (£23.81 billion), and the retailer’s gross merchandise volume increased by 27% year-on-year.
This momentum has been boosted by China’s transition to an economy driven by consumption, and the boom in e-commerce from retail giants such as Alibaba and JD.com. Sales have also been driven by more brands taking part than ever before, and a record number of consumers logging on from outside of China to grab a slice of the action.
Black Friday, which takes place on the Friday after Thanksgiving, has become a firm fixture in the UK retail calendar. The first years of Black Friday in the UK were met with swarms of frantic shoppers as they fought over the latest smart TVs. However, as Amazon, Argos and Currys PC World launch their Black Friday campaigns early this year, could sales actually be losing momentum?
Whilst GlobalData has forecast Black Friday sales for 2018 to grow 3.1% year-on-year, analysts also expect that shoppers will rein in their spending this year amid the growing Brexit uncertainty. In addition, this year’s high street crisis has led to store closures and huge discounting throughout the year, meaning that British shoppers have not had to wait until Black Friday in November to grab a bargain. What’s more, some UK retailers have refrained from holding Black Friday sales, as it puts pressure on retailers to discount their prices at their most profitable time of year. Nevertheless, Black Friday is here to stay – and the proportion of sales that take place online has increased dramatically, in an echo to Singles’ Day.
So could we see Singles’ Day gather pace in the UK and see the same popularity as Black Friday? Only time will tell…