If you think Black Friday is the world’s biggest shopping day, then you haven’t heard of Singles Day. The e-commerce event — a promotional sale cooked up in 2008 by Alibaba (China’s equivalent of Amazon) — occurred last week and generated a whopping $14.3 billion in sales in one day.
Singles Day sales were up more than 50% in 2015 compared to 2014, when sales reached $9.3 billion. This year the 2014 figure was eclipsed before the middle of the day, according to the company.
Compare Singles Day numbers with total revenues for last year’s Black Friday ($1.51 billion), or Cyber Monday ($2.65 billion), and you can see that Singles Day is a retail force to be reckoned with.
The holiday falls on November 11, or 11-11 (the number eleven signifies two singles), and is a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day for single people. Alibaba took the somewhat obscure holiday, which began in the 1990s, and rather brilliantly turned it into an excuse to go shopping for oneself by slashing prices on a wide range of consumer items.
Of particular note for this year is that sales conducted through mobile devices accounted for nearly 70% of Singles Day transactions. This means that Alibaba’s focus on mobile is paying off. Nearly 90% of China’s 668 million Internet users — an online population that far outnumbers the entire US population — access the web through their smartphones, compared to 43% on laptops and 68% on desktop PCs, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government agency.
What does Singles Day’s success mean for the economy? According to an account in US News & World Report, it’s a glaring indicator of how China, with its massive middle class (at 300 million and counting), is transitioning from a production-based to a consumer-driven economy. If nothing else, it exemplifies Chinese consumers’ astounding collective spending power.
Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.