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Why UK retailers should embrace Singles Day

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It’s the most lucrative online shopping day in the world, bigger even than Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Singles Day, the global e-commerce phenomenon that UK retailers now more than ever can benefit from. 

Singles' Day, which falls on 11th November, is the single consumer’s Valentine’s Day; a chance to celebrate singledom as characterised by the four number ones in the date of 11/11. 

Six years ago online giant Alibaba used Singles Day to promote a huge sale, as it would be a memorable date and fell suitably between Golden Week and Chinese New Year. 

Single’s Day quickly became an event and now other e-tailers are capitalising on it, seeing it as a chance to target young consumers with big bargainsNot only does it see heavily discounted goods delivered to customers around the world, but also encourages the most popular international retailers to export their goods into China, which remains by far the biggest source of revenue for the event. 

There are some voices of disdain in China. Some complain that participating stores hike up prices just before Singles Day, in turn offering misleading discounts. Despite this, the holiday remains immensely popular, and orders are often made days or even weeks in advance 

The bulk of the shopping day’s growth has been driven by Alibaba, now the trademarked owner of the term ‘double 11’ to symbolise its devotion to the date. The platform covers Singles Day annuallywith live reports that show when profit milestones have been reached, and a large monitor on the outside of the company’s HQ in Hangzhou that displays spending throughout the day. 

“The 11.11 Shopping Festival has become a global event, with international brands and retailers now participating and selling goods directly to Chinese consumers as part of this 24 hour consumer shopping phenomenon, explains Ken Ardali, Director of International eCommerce Business Development at Alibaba Group EMEA. 

As the Chinese population grow in their wealth and move into middle class, they are looking for greater variety and quality products to fit into their changing lifestyles. For example, a Chinese consumer will look to British brands for unique fashion design, baby care and food products. Alibaba is focused on increasing access to these Chinese consumers for businesses of all sizes in the UK and around the world.” 

Chinese consumers have shown a distinct interest in British retail and are the second highest spending tourist group in the UK, just behind Americans. 

Several British retailers have already benefitted from Singles Day, such as supermarket giant Sainsbury’s which has exported a number of products for the event in recent years. 

Online retail is burgeoning. Many of the biggest industry names attribute at least a fifth of their overall profits to e-commerce, and are constantly updating their digital platforms to compensate. E-commerce events are becoming increasingly popular in Britain, and although it may be some time before the potential of Singles Day is unlocked, it would be better for retailers to over-prepare in this case. 

Published on Friday 02 October by Philip Gallagher

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