Blame “cuffing season,” the significance of the clock striking midnight on NYE, and the Hallmark-laden Valentine’s Day. From mid-Fall to mid-February society celebrates being a part of a union. Finally in the midst of it all came a shopping holiday to celebrate being single. In just a decade Single’s Day turned into the world’s most significant and busiest shopping extravaganza.
The origins of Singles’ Day
Also known as “Bare Sticks Holiday” because of how it looks numerically, Singles’ Day started on November 11, 1993 (11:11) at Nanjing University. It was a day students celebrated being single. In 2009, co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, transformed the event into a global shopping festival.
Inspired by the of the American Black Friday, Ma decided to center his shopping promotion around a holiday and saw the Singles’ Day as the ideal event. For 24 hours consumers are encouraged to treat themselves to goods at a heavily discounted price. The day became an opportunity to boost sales in the lull between China’s Golden Week in October and the Christmas season.
During the inaugural Singles’ Day, only 27 merchants participated, according to RADII. The revenue taken during the retail event was an estimated 52m yuan (around $7.5 million), reports Forbes. In 2010, consumer spending grew to a whopping 5.2 billion yuan (about $750 million). By 2011 the Hangzhou-based firm generated 19.1 billion yuan (about $2.7 billion) in sales.
The 24-hour buying frenzy became more and more successful, racking up record numbers year after year. In 2016, Alibaba made a staggering 120.7 billion yuan ($17.4 billion) as consumers continued to buy at an unprecedented pace. Sales figures soared to 168.2 billion yuan ($24.2 billion) in 2017, following Alibaba’s efforts at an omnichannel presence.
This year, retail giant surpassed that total, with an estimated $30.8 billion worth of sales recorded within 24 hours, according to CNBC. This figure is more than double the total online sales from Black Friday ($6.22 billion) and Cyber Monday ($7.9 billion) combined in the US. Time will tell how long Singles’ Day will continue to grow. Alibaba’s brick-and-mortar and digital prowess combined with China’s large and tech-savvy middle class is sure to make it a continued success.