Black Friday in the U.S. or Boxing Day in the U.K. often come to mind as days associated with massive amounts of shopping. But in the past couple of years, those shopping holidays have been dwarfed by China’s newcomer, Singles’ Day, which has grown to become the largest online shopping day in the world.
Singles Day started as Bachelors’ Day in China in the 90s, celebrating men who were single, hence its date filled with numerous ones (11/11). While the day was traditionally celebrated through drinking and partying, it was transformed in recent years to a day focused on massive sales and discounts. Though the holiday is primarily celebrated in China, the world has paid greater attention to Singles’ Day as Chinese online retailers like Alibaba look to have a greater presence online and overseas.
As retailers, couriers and consumers prepare for the big event, here’s what to look for with Singles Day 2014:
Alibaba's Single's Day sales are already bigger than all of U.S. Black Friday e-commerce. Expect it to grow even more.
Alibaba sales on Singles' Day are expected to grow 42 percent to 50 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) in 2014, up from 35 billion yuan ($5.75 billion) in 2013, according to China Daily. That’s a massive increase from Alibaba’s Tmall Singles’ Day 2009 sales, which brought in 50 million yuan ($8.16 million).
By comparison, Black Friday ($1.94 billion) and Cyber Monday ($2.26 billion) combined only racked up $4.2 billion in U.S. sales in 2013, according to data from Adobe Systems. Those numbers are expected to increase for 2014 online sales during Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Singles’ Day is still expected to outpace all three of those days combined.
More Chinese retailers are going to get into the act with steep discounting.
As Alibaba and a number of other Chinese e-retailers prepare to offer big discounts through their online properties this year, Singles’ Day sales may grow even larger. Alibaba’s Tmall sellers participating in the holiday has reportedly jumped to 27,000 from 10,000 in the previous year, according to Seeking Alpha.
Domestic shipping companies brace for the demand.
Domestic courier companies are said to be preparing for a surge in shipments. Chinese delivery company YTO Express is hiring 30,000 workers just for the holiday shopping event, reports the Wall Street Journal. They’ll need every hand they can get, as couriers may need to deliver 500 million packages in the days following Singles’ Day.
Singles’ Day is going international.
Singles’ Day is already known to be a huge shopping day in China, but ambitions from retailers to grow the holiday aren't limited to the Far East.
Overseas merchants are looking to get a piece of the action by shipping direct to consumers, while Alibaba’s AliExpress plans to offer deals in several countries including Russia and Spain, according to a Credit Suisse research note. Several high-profile international brands are also expected to participate in this year’s Singles’ Day, including Burberry, Estee Lauder, Tesla and Zara.
Online retail is already massive in China, and growing.
Retailers and manufacturers are flocking to China for a number of reasons, including its online market, which accounted for 1.85 trillion yuan ($302 billion), according to the Chinese Network Information Center. That market is expected to grow to 30 trillion yuan ($4.9 trillion) by 2020, exceeding the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany and France combined, according to KPMG.