Is Singles Day ready to go global?

Discussion
Nov 12, 2014

What sales event drives more sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined? That would be China’s Singles Day, launched in 2009 by Alibaba, and rolling out to the rest of the planet, if Jack Ma has his way, by 2019.

So, what is Singles Day? Pretty much like it sounds, it’s a day to celebrate people who are not married. (Single’s Day is set on 11/11 because of its four single numerals.) This year, the event generated more than $9.34 billion in sales, breaking the previous record of $5.75 billion set last year and more than three times 2012’s $3 billion.

This year was the first time that Alibaba promoted its AliExpress, an English-language marketplace for consumers outside of China.

A U.S. site, Dealmoon.com, which targets Chinese-Americans, offered more than 120 Single Day offers from brands and retailers including Lancome, Origins, Kate Spade, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Starbucks, Gilt and more.

Overstock.com had $11 deals for Singles Day. Another Singles Day page promoting "I (heart) $100 Deals" told singles, "This is the day to get something special for a very important person in your life — You!"

Alibaba’s Alipay financial services platform appears as though it will have a role to play in connecting American brands to Chinese consumers. On Monday, Borderfree, which operates an international cross-border e-commerce platform, announced it was collaborating with Alipay to make goods from Aéropostale, Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue available to online shoppers in China.

How likely is Singles Day to become a major shopping event in the U.S. within the next five to 10 years? How do you think American retailers will begin introducing the holiday to consumers in the U.S.?

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15 Comments on "Is Singles Day ready to go global?"

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Tom Redd
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

OK, I do not care. I am married. 32 years of not being a single retail dude that wandered the streets of the early programming world.

So I DO NOT CARE. We have Millennials, Gen-Z, not singles and next—Divorcee Day? Since the divorce rate amongst baby boomers is climbing—except for guys like me. Too afraid of the wife to get divorced and the kids would kill me. Can we talk? OK, maybe at NRF …

Zel Bianco
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

I can’t see Singles Day becoming a major shopping event in the U.S. simply because it shares a date with Veterans Day. Celebrating yourself and being single seems a little less fun when it co-opts a day when we celebrate and remember the selfless sacrifices made by our service men and women and their families. That is not to say that we haven’t added a consumer element to Veterans Day already—as with Memorial Day and Labor Day, this past weekend’s newspapers and inboxes were flooded with special sales and one-day offers. But I can’t imagine those ads trying to advertise both Veterans Day and Singles Day sales.

However, the fact remains that single people tend to do all of their holiday shopping themselves, and this lends plenty of opportunity for them to buy themselves a treat while they are out. Retailers would be better served by advertising two-for-one deals that encourage shoppers to buy the perfect gift for a loved one and pick up one for themselves as well.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

I’m imagining the marketer in 2011 who was pitching his colleagues on the crazy idea of promoting a niche university holiday as a major shopping event, and how many nay-sayers there must have been in the room. Fast forward three years, and it’s driving more than $9B in value!

I’m not betting against it. 🙂

Steve Montgomery
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

There are a few reasons why I can see Singles Day working in the U.S. There are more single people now, either because they have not yet gotten married or because they were and got divorced. Many of these single people have the disposable income to buy themselves a gift, and who doesn’t like a deal?

That being said, in China there is an additional month between Singles Day and the next big gift-giving occasion, Chinese New Year, and then between then and Christmas. I expect the relative closeness of the two will damper some of the enthusiasm people might have for Singles Day. At the rate we have Black Friday creep it may soon start on 11/11 and the singles can buy Black Friday deals for themselves.

Like Tom, whether it becomes a U.S. occasion or not means nothing to me. I was fortunate enough to marry my high school sweetheart a long time ago.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
3 years 1 month ago
I am a great believer that in this time frame that online will become the primary driver of retail sales. However culturally, demographically and structurally Singles Day will not likely be a U.S. event. Demographically: There are 4.5 people living in China to every 1 living in the U.S. Beyond that, the Chinese middle class is growing at a rapid rate while the U.S. middle class is declining in numbers. The Chinese middle class is already larger than the entire U.S. population. Structurally: China never developed the extensive and sophisticated brick-and-mortar retail system that has developed in the U.S. To many Chinese, online is the best alternative to acquire goods. To many Chinese, it is the only alternative. If they find no need to build a brick-and-mortar infrastructure, they won’t. They will just transition directly to online. Culturally: The big shopping activities in the U.S. revolve around cultural benchmarks like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Back-to-School, Halloween, etc. In a sense they are a justification for shopping. They are not random. A change in habit… Read more »
Tony Orlando
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

A smart small business owner can host a speed dating night for singles, and push their perfumes and other wares at the same time. There can be a niche for this, and I think the smart niche retailer has the greatest chance at making this work, as they can create a more intimate setting for a Match.com kind of deal.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Such a great idea. And so are Blonde Hair Day, I Hate Grapefruit Day and I’ve Never Voted Day.

Come on now. Apparently Jack Ma can sell ANYTHING.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

With Alibaba quickly taking over the world and generating market capital value as fast as lightning, I’d say they could influence buying behavior over time. Americans don’t quite get Alibaba—yet. As awareness of Alibaba and Singles Day increases, this trend could easily become another tool for retailers to leverage to drive sales.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Pretty soon there will be a day for everything so sales can be concentrated on whoever the “honoree” happens to be. I, for one, think enough is enough. There are plenty of ways to take my money. So don’t add another to clutter my buying brain any more than it already is.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Retailers are or should be looking for any and all promotional options.

Singles Day works nicely between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Currently, retailers are attempting to expand Christmas shopping which would be a conflict with Singles Day. In 1960 the average household was 3.33 people. By 2010 the average household was 2.59 people. All this time the population continues to legally grow by about 1% each year. Plus, generations X and Y have delayed marriage. The net is a larger and increasing singles population.

In 10 years this will be a shopping event. Not all retailers will introduce a Singles Day offering. Only retailers catering to the singles market segment will jump on board. Apparel and jewelry are two example that will embrace Singles Day. Others like home furnishings and lumber yards are unlikely. The issue is for the Macy’s and Walmarts of the world that sell to both. Singles Day will just become an early Christmas for some consumers.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Over the next five years, it is unlikely that Singles Day will become a major shopping event in the U.S. I believe it will depend on whether Millennials end up adopting it in the long-term, emerging as the driving force to make it more popular within the next 10 years.

Singles Day falls just after back-to-school sales, on Veterans Day and just before the Thanksgiving holiday, when U.S. shoppers are preparing for a long holiday weekend that starts with Black Friday and ends with Cyber Monday. Tradition and timing work against the adoption of Singles Day in this scenario.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

Just like Halloween has become a global event through promotion and stores worldwide getting behind it, if retailers in the U.S. want to, they can make it an important event here too.

Verlin Youd
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

I had a professor in graduate school who said, “You can’t fight demographics.” It is a fact that there are more singles than ever, in the US let alone globally, based on various factors, including delaying marriage, couples deciding marriage isn’t required, ever increasing number of the divorced, along with those deciding they just don’t want such a relationship. So, yes it is likely that Singles Day will become a major shopping event in the US in the next 5-10 years.

To address Zel’s point, it’s likely to be a different day than the current 11/11, at least I certainly hope so!

Larry Negrich
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

I’m not fighting Singles Day as it is the most inclusive of all holidays. The holiday that caters to everybody—it’s genius. Yes, it’s coming to our shores and will be celebrated by all.
The factor that may slow the numbers celebrating self-gifting is the current timing of Single’s Day, falling between a number of other peak shopping periods. But that may work to be an advantage. Out shopping for others and spot something for you? Buy it and chalk it up to Singles Day. Singles Day serves as a guilt-free excuse for shoppers to treat themselves to a special gift…Why not? It’s 11/11.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
3 years 28 days ago

Singles Day, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

1. Singles Day is conducive to targeted demos (singles), regions (cities with high Chinese-American populations) and channels (social media)

2. It represents an incremental purchase occasion, and turns self-centeredness from something of guilt to something to be celebrated

3. It’s tailor made for distinct product categories (Overstock’s “freedom” categories like trips, gear, and bachelor trappings)

4. Shop Small has shown how an anchor tenant (Amex ) with deep pockets can build a consortium in the busiest shopping period of the year

5. It’s on track to be the largest “manufactured” holiday in the world in terms of transactions

To its advantage, it precedes rather than follow the major events traditionally celebrated as shopping events. This means more dollars, rubles and renminbi are up for grabs. It also means guarantees of free shipping and 3 day delivery will be easier to meet.

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