Americans have a reputation for being slightly self-centered in matters of, well, almost everything, but our big shopping days—Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the like—have nothing on Singles Day.
Held yearly on November 11, Singles Day—which got its name because the date consists of four number ones—was created by Chinese college students in the ’90s to celebrate being romantically unattached and to party with your single pals. However—like most holidays in this world—it’s turned into a mega opportunity for retailers, with Singles Day now the most gangbusters 24-hour online shopping bonanza in the world.
Here’s an idea of what a big deal the day is for international brands selling everything from clothes and shoes to electronics: In 2013, total online sales in China hit $8 billion on Singles Day, more than double the combined $3 billion reached in the United States for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to CNN.
This year, expectations are even higher: Alibaba alone—the world’s biggest e-commerce platform—broke its own record for Singles Day revenue, surpassing the 57.1 billion yuan ($8.96 billion) in sales made during the entire event last year about halfway through the 24-hour-long holiday, according to the BCC, which pointed out that over a billion dollars was spent within eight minutes after midnight, when the sale started.
So why should you care about Singles Day if its advantages are primarily reaped in Asia? Well, for one thing, experts want American companies to take note.
“Alibaba has picked up on it and made it its own, much like Hallmark has picked up on Valentine’s Day and every other holiday,” Marlene Morris Towns, marketing professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, told CNET last year. “It’s been great for its business so far, and I think Amazon would do well to jump on it as well.”
Plus, there’s the sheer fact that people in Asia spend like crazy on Singles Day pretty arbitrarily, so it seems logical that Americans would do that same if sites they like to shop were offering giant one-day discounts. Despite some critics’ comments that the “holiday” preys on the insecurities of single women, it’s difficult to imagine most Americans thinking too hard about the reason for sale, if they know they can get that new couch or bag or plane ticket for 30 percent off.
Some experts suggest the day’s underlying message should be looked at as an empowering idea, one that’s about buying what you want instead of hoping someone buys it for you on a day like February 14.
“It’s something that could be pretty easily promoted” in the United States, said Towns. “As more people here wait to get married and get more settled into their careers and their independent lives, there’s an opportunity to counter, say, Valentine’s Day.”
Today, a few familiar stateside retailers have co-opted Singles Day: Otte is offering 20 percent off sitewide through November 15, and Nasty Gal will let you snag everything for 25 percent off for 24 hours.