COMMENT: The rise of Singles’ Day

Jimmy New, director of marketing at online retailer VoucherCodes, explains why the Chinese shopping phenomenon is one for retailers to watch.

Singles' Day

In recent years, nothing in the festive retail calendar has compared to the fervour of Black Friday. Once down-played as an American fad that wouldn’t take off in the UK, the Friday after Thanksgiving has become a firm fixture for British shoppers and retailers alike.

Hot on its heels is a new retail phenomenon which could make itself a permanent fixture in the British shopping calendar: Singles’ Day. has conducted research with the Centre of Retail Research (CRR) to better understand UK shopping habits around Singles’ Day.

So, what is Singles’ Day? It’s a shopping phenomenon born in China out of an anti-Valentine’s Day movement among Chinese college students in the 1990s, and its premise was simple: to celebrate being single. It’s no accident that Singles’ Day falls on the 11th November, given that the date (11/11) exclusively comprises the number one.

Until now, Singles’ Day has been relatively understated in the UK, with only a small number of retailers taking part in 2017 and a low level of public awareness. However, this could be set to change. Our report with the CRR has shown that UK shoppers are set to spend £1.137 billion this year on Singles’ Day – a 14.9 per cent increase on last year.

What’s more, for retailers who would like to take advantage of day, there is already an engaged audience – 26 per cent of consumers are planning to shop or will shop if they see the right deal.

Thanks to Alibaba and its founder, Jack Ma, Singles’ Day has been transformed into the biggest shopping day in the world, with $25 billion worth of sales taking place last year. This dwarfs the £2.44 billion of sales on last year’s Black Friday and the estimated £3.6 billion made by Amazon on its highest grossing day to date, Prime Day 2018.

As the date falls on Armistice Day, the potential Singles’ Day has to really rival Cyber Weekend in the UK is unclear. For retailers, it will be important to keep an eye on consumer behaviour this year and ensure they are prepared to meet any growing demand – Black Friday 2014 caught a lot of retailers unawares so it’s key to make sure this doesn’t happen for Singles’ Day.

We’re working closely with our partners across all the key festive shopping dates to ensure they have the best approach in place to maximise the trend and engage with their customers in the right way. Time will tell whether Singles’ Day will grow to see the same popularity as Black Friday, but it’s definitely a trend to watch.

Jimmy New is the Director of Marketing at VoucherCodes

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