Should U.S. Retailers Embrace Singles Day?

Chinese retailers profit from a designated day that focuses on shopping for oneself.

November 15, 2018

HANGZHOU, China – Singles Day, an assigned shopping day in China, is not just for the unmarried consumer. Much like the annual Black Friday in the U.S., this year’s Singles Day on Nov. 11 crushed previous sales records and is expected to spread to more countries, according to

Singles Day was started by college students in 1993 as an anti-Valentine celebration that encourage the unattached to buy gifts for themselves, but over time, it has morphed into a day for anyone to treat themselves.

Ten years ago, Alibaba, China's largest online commerce company, transformed the informal faux holiday into a shopping event with widespread online discounts across its websites. This year, Alibaba racked up more than $30.8 billion in sales during the 24-hour sale, an increase of nearly 27% year-over-year and double the $14.5 billion taken online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in the U.S. in 2017.

Other Chinese retailers now celebrate the holiday, and Single Days are cropping up in other countries, including the U.S., as Chinese living abroad and Chinese-Americans embraced the event.

The holiday traditionally focuses on luxury and fashion. This year, Saks, Barneys and Urban Outfitters offered 11% off all online sales in the U.S. on Sunday, but the event wasn’t widely promoted in the country where Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads are already running. Some industry observers predict that with Single Day’s growing popularity, it will become more global in the future.