Singles’ Day in China vs Black Friday in the U.S. – and the Winner Is …
When you hear the phrase ‘Singles’ Day,’ you probably think of unmarried people celebrating the fact that they haven’t yet succumbed to a binding relationship in the form of marriage.
Prior to 2009, you would have been correct. The date 11 November or 11/11 was chosen by four single male friends at Nanjing University in 1993 to commiserate with each other over the loneliness and monotony of single life. They chose that date for Singles Day because of the four 1’s in the month and date, each 1 symbolizing an individual person.
The celebration became a university tradition and eventually spread all over China. As it became more and more popular, retail companies saw the opportunity to advertise and sell goods, at first targeting young consumers, but eventually aiming to empty everyone’s wallet.
It was in 2009 that Alibaba launched its first Singles’ Day online sale. And the rest, as they say, is history. That first event was modest, relatively speaking, with around US$7 million in sales for Alibaba.
Other companies had taken notice, and every year since then, sales have increased dramatically. In 2012, Alibaba did around US$3 billion in sales. Yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’ – not million. And that number almost doubled in 2013.
There was no stopping this trend. Alibaba’s 2015 sales of US$14.3 billion beat out the two biggest shopping days in the U.S., Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. If we’re just looking at commerce, Alibaba could be its own country and would rank as the 11th largest economy in the world.
Alibaba rang up US$17.8 billion in sales in 2016, with a large percentage of those sales coming from mobile devices and countries other than China. It didn’t hurt that Katy Perry and Kobe Bryant were present to hype the pre-sale extravaganza.
Once the U.S. figures are in for Black Friday, we’ll know who the winner is this year.