Industry

Single minded Chinese shoppers put Black Friday in the shade

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now major days in the retail calendar. However, David Jinks MILT from the international courier price comparison site ParcelHero, reckons the biggest online bonanza in the world is an event most British people have never heard of: Singles Day!

“Last year a stunning 278 million items were sold on Singles Day, 11 November, worth $9.3bn. That dwarfs global Cyber Monday sales, which only amounted to 36.8 million sales and were worth a mere $2.68bn,” says Jinks.

“Singles Day comes from China. It originated in Nanjing University where the large number of single males celebrated 11 November because it is all the ones: 11/11. Students continued the tradition once they had left university and it really took off in 2011: 11/11/11! It has become an excuse for an unofficial holiday, going on blind dates, and a huge shopping event in which single people buy themselves a treat.”

Having spotted its commercial potential, Alibaba popularised the day with extensive online offers. Its charismatic founder Jack Ma predicted last year: “I bet the number of goods sold is going to be scary”. He was  on to something: sales last year totalled $9.3bn through Alibaba’s Tmall, Taobao and AliExpress retail sites.

Could the UK succumb to Singles Day fever? Jinks says he wouldn’t be surprised; Alibaba is moving the event westwards.

Tmall particularly has been setting up partnerships with global brands to manage logistics and sales from outside of China and use Tmall largely as a front-end. Consumers should start to see UK-focused bargains appear on the AliExpress site. For any internet retailer looking to source products for their site, significant discounts on Alibaba sites on 11/11 can’t be bad; but there are also sales opportunities. As the day grows in popularity UK buyers will start to seek out Singles Day bargains; and small retailers need to respond to this demand with Singles Day sales on their own sites or online marketplace stores such as eBay.

Jinks believes the day is ideally timed: “By 11 November shoppers are very Christmas conscious and already buying presents, and it’s an opportunity for responsive retailers to steal a march on Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Retailers large and small should get single minded.”

Main image copyright HeroicLife (Flickr: East Nanjing Pedestrian Shopping Street) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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