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What Is Singles Day and How Are Retailers Celebrating It?

What Is Singles Day and How Are Retailers Celebrating It?
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How Did Singles’ Day Come About?

We are now safely in November, and the festive season is almost upon us. Shopaholics and regular consumers alike are anticipating the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to pick up those goods they’ve been eyeing for a while. But before November 22nd, there is another large shopping holiday with crazy promotions similar to that of the Thanksgiving holidays. Now, you’re probably thinking, why didn’t anyone tell me about it?

Traditionally a holiday celebrated only in China, Singles Day, or better known as Guanggun Jie to the Chinese, falls annually on November 11. If you haven’t picked up on it, it’s a day to celebrate being single and treating yourself generously.

In a culture that places great emphasis on marriage and family, the day - originally started out as a movement against Valentine’s Day by college students in 1993 - became a widespread phenomenon among China’s rising middle class.

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, quickly picked up this catchy date and turned Singles Day into an almost global shopping holiday, which doubled the Black Friday sale in revenue gained. Alibaba earned $25.3 billion in 24 hours, while Adobe Analytics estimated that US shoppers spent $19.6 billion over the 5 day Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. Other retailers in China, such as JD.com, saw how much money Alibaba was making on November 11 alone through shopping channels Taobao and Tmall, and rapidly followed suit.

Making a billion per hour on Singles Day last year, money-making machine Alibaba has single-handedly surpassed even global giant Amazon in revenue on its own shopping day, Prime Day 2017. There were 812 million parcels to be delivered from Tmall alone last year and the number of parcels this year for Singles Day is anticipated to reach 1 billion, testing the backbone infrastructure of Alibaba. However, despite Alibaba’s year-on-year revenue growth being a high 39%, the forecast for this year’s Singles Day can be challenging as it comes amidst China’s economic struggles and the China-United States trade dispute.

What US Retailers Are Offering

Seeing the success of Alibaba and Singles Day, US retailers in recent years are adding a fourth date to the host of consumerism-driven holidays. Last year saw retailers such as Ralph Lauren, Missguided, Barney’s, and the Body Shop offering promotions on 11/11, such as (surprise, surprise) 11% discounts and Singles’ Day bundles.

This year, we at StyleSage are curious to see if more American retailers are jumping on the bandwagon and taking yet another opportunity to offer promotional discounts. Or perhaps, US retailers decided that promotional resources were better allocated to domestic holidays.

We took a look at promotional activities on our platform, and our latter prediction turned out to be closest to reality. It seems more retailers here are recognizing Veteran’s Day (which falls on November 12) instead, offering up campaigns such as below:

Under ArmorForever 21Macy'sAEOFrom left: Campaigns from Under Armor, Forever 21, Macy's and AEO.
American Eagle Outfitters was offering promotions surrounding Election Day.

Nonetheless, in 2018 we are seeing a few more retailers, the bulk of whom recognized the 11/11 opportunity early on, doing some promotions for the holiday. In particular, we also noted that those retailers, including Farfetch, Aldo, and Need Supply, tend to be more global in their point-of-view. There will also likely be more retailers who send out last-minute emails to customers on the actual day (this Sunday). TBD.

Need SupplyAldoFarfetch From left: Campaigns from Need Supply, Aldo, and Farfetch.

Look, we’re not ones to say that we need more discounting in the US retail market, but it does seem like a great opportunity, and one that’s missed, to snag a bit of that single person’s money before they blow it all on holiday shopping.

International Brands in China

A closer look revealed something very interesting: it turns out US-based retail companies are advertising on Alibaba’s platforms, particularly brand-name online marketplace, Tmall. Some of the campaigns shown below entice us with 50% discounts site-wide and Nike also does a countdown to 11/11 to build the anticipation.

Tommy HilfigerAEONike From left: Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle Outfitters, and Nike’s campaigns on Tmall featuring 11.11.

Our database showed us that right now there is a 6 percentage point difference in average discount penetration (how much is on sale) when comparing China and US. Forty percent of bags, apparel and shoes are currently discounted in China, while 34% of the assortment is discounted in the US - so it seems that even on the item-level, you can expect a darned good discount if you’re shopping online in China this Singles Day.

Tis’ the season for promotions no matter where you are, and Singles Day is sure to be one for the books.

UPDATED TO REFLECT 2018 RESULTS: Economic headwinds couldn't stand in the way of what was, once again, a record-breaking Singles Day event. Alibaba busted last year's sales record of $25.3B in sales to reach $30.8B for the 24-hour shopping event.

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