Singles Day: The world's biggest shopping event you may never have heard of

Laura Hampson
·3-min read
Singles Day falls annually on 11 November (Getty)
Singles Day falls annually on 11 November (Getty)

It’s likely that you’ve heard of Black Friday - the day after US Thanksgiving, now known as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But have you heard of Singles Day?

Similar to Black Friday, Singles Day is a 24 hour online shopping event held annually.

Sales on the day – 11 November – annually surpass Black Friday, making it the world’s largest shopping day.

Read more: How to fight the urge to stockpile, according to psychologists

Yet, according to a YouGov poll, more than 80% of British adults don’t know, or have never heard of, Singles Day and only 2% of respondents interviewed in the poll last month planned to take advantage of the discounts this year.

So are we missing out on the best day of the year to bag a bargain?

What is Singles Day?

Known as the anti-Valentine’s Day, Singles Day was originally founded in 1993 by a group of Chinese university students as an unofficial way to celebrate singledom. The date, 11 November or 11/11, was chosen to symbolise solo living, due to the number of ones it includes.

Chinese retail giant Alibaba caught on to Singles Day in 2009 and decided to use it as a promotional tool to target single customers, advertising it as a day they could buy something for themselves.

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Last year, Alibaba sold £29.4bn worth of goods in the 24 hour period.

Now, Singles Day has filtered into the UK market too, with the number of products first discounted for the event up by 86% in the UK in 2019.

Can we expect it to rival Black Friday in the UK?

A spokesperson from Mintel told Yahoo UK that Singles Day is “probably something that could take off in the future”.

Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, executive vice president at Bloomreach, EMEA added: “Singles Day has been a big deal in other regions for a while now, particularly in Asia.

“2020 could actually be the year that it becomes more mainstream in the UK, with consumers locked inside surfing the web and looking for things to pass the time.

“Retailers are also struggling as a result of the lockdown and Singles Day could offer them a great opportunity to increase sales.

“It also provides a chance for brands to interact with new audiences, including Gen Z and shoppers in different regions. This is part of the beauty of eCommerce, as it provides the ability for retailers to offer unique digital commerce experiences to customers in markets that they normally wouldn’t operate in.”

In 2019, sales made in the UK on Singles Day were forecast to reach £1.29bn and Brits currently have the highest Singles Day spending in Europe.

However, this is only a fraction of what British shoppers spend during the Black Friday sales, which fall at the tail end of November.

Read more: This is when to buy a turkey so you don’t miss out this Christmas

Last year, Black Friday brought in an estimated £5.6bn to UK retailers and this year it is forecast to reach £6bn.

So while Singles Day hasn’t quite caught up to Black Friday madness, it remains the world’s singular biggest shopping day of the year - and it seems the UK is starting to catch on.

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