Is it time for U.S. retailers to embrace Singles Day?
Singles Day, essentially China’s equivalent of Black Friday, crushed previous sales records yesterday as the promotional event spread to more countries, including the U.S.
Started as an anti-Valentine’s Day movement by college students in 1993, the day initially encouraged unmarried Chinese to buy gifts for themselves. Over the years, however, it has morphed into a day for anybody to treat themselves. Held annually on 11/11, Alibaba transformed the informal holiday into a shopping event in 2009 with widespread online discounts across its websites, including Taobao and Tmall.
Alibaba racked up more than $30.8 billion in sales during the 24-hour shopping event, up nearly 27 percent year-over-year and double the $14.5 billion taken online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in the U.S. in 2017. July’s 36-hour Prime Day netted an estimated $4.2 billion.
Hyped by a gala Saturday night in Shanghai featuring singer Mariah Carey, supermodel Miranda Kerr and a performance from Cirque du Soleil, Alibaba’s Singles Day sales hit $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds. Alibaba earned a boost by adding participation of its Southeast Asia unit Lazada as well as subsidiaries Ele.me, Koubei, supermarket chain Hema and other business units.
Other Chinese retailers, including JD.com, have joined the holiday, and Single Days deals again cropped up in other countries, including the U.S. as Chinese living abroad and Chinese-Americans embraced the event.
In keeping with the holiday’s focus on luxury and fashion, Saks, Barneys and Urban Outfitters offered 11 percent off all online sales in the U.S. on Sunday, but the shopping holiday isn’t widely promoted in the U.S. The event fights for attention with Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads already running. Still, some see it becoming more global in ensuing years.
Kate Walters, executive planning director and head of strategy at digital agency Swirl mcgarrybowen, told Adweek, “Given Prime Day’s popularity, there may well be room for a [fourth] manufactured shopping holiday in the U.S., and Singles Day — with its spirit of treating yourself — fits nicely with other behaviors we see from millennial audiences.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Singles Day becoming a regular shopping event for U.S. retailers in the years ahead? Will the event’s appeal be largely confined to Chinese living in the U.S. and Chinese Americans or do you see it achieving a broader reach?