11.11 - The Singles’ Date

China is one of the world’s biggest powerhouses in innovation and technology. While the country has its own set of laws, it has a holiday that not many people around the globe know about- the Singles’ Day! It might sound peculiar, but it is a huge part of modern Chinese culture. 

The Singles’ Day or Double 11, originally called Bachelors’ Day, is celebrated on November 11. It is a Chinese commercial holiday to celebrate being romantically unattached and paradoxically, turns out to be the largest physical retail and online shopping day of the year.


The narrative behind the Singles’ Day is pretty nice. It originated at Nanjing University in 1993. A group of lonely, yet positive students decided that instead of lamenting their lack of a significant other, they would celebrate being single. The reasoning? 11.11 looks like four, single sticks, strung together trying to make the most out of their time. The anti-Valentine’s Day celebration of singledom caught on and spread across universities throughout China, generally characterised by fun and harmless events. With the widespread use of social media, the day has become increasingly popular within contemporary Chinese culture and society. 

Alibaba’s Blockbuster Growth

Alibaba’s co-founder Jack Ma instituted the first Singles’ Day sale in 2009, laying the foundation for the highest-grossing shopping day of the year in the world. In 2012, the e-commerce company officially trademarked ‘Double 11’. Next in 2017, Alibaba’s mobile wallet app Alipay broke the record for the greatest number of transactions per second, whoa! 

It would not be Singles’ Day without Alibaba having some great deals available. This year, the company’s annual sales frenzy broke records again by raking in roughly $75 billion. The total includes an earlier three-day period that was added to boost post-pandemic sales. The company claimed that, compared to the same timeframe as last year, this year’s haul represents an increase of 26%. Chinese consumers, who already buy about 30% of the nation’s retail purchase online, have become more reliant on e-commerce. 

This year, Alibaba also held a ‘Go Global 11.11 Pitch Fest’ aimed at small and medium-sized US brands, offering them a chance to be spotlighted during the event. Besides that, the company has been trying to involve more foreign brands globally. In 2019, Americans commanded the second-highest sales among importers, behind Japan but ahead of South Korea, Australia, and Germany. 

Undoubtedly, Alibaba makes stupendous efforts to hype up Double 11 with its extravagant, rather over-the-top countdown gala. It featured appearances from celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Kobe Bryant, Scarlett Johansson, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, Miranda Kerr, Jessie J, Lionel Messi, and Taylor Swift in the preceding years. Pop star Katy Perry, who has performed at the event before, made an appearance at the company’s gala this season, albeit via a live stream, as travel restrictions on outside visitors remain in place in China. 

Even though many other online platforms and stores take part in Singles’ Day, it is still closely tied to Alibaba. 

Crazy Sale

For brands and retailers scrambling to recover from months of shuttered shops and consumers hunkered down indoors, the profitable Chinese shopper is a much-needed bright spot. It is estimated that the participation of luxury brands has doubled on Singles’ Day, as millions of Chinese who have been unable to travel overseas on shopping trips go online for what experts are dubbing ‘revenge spending’. 

Unsurprisingly, the buzz of Singles’ Day led the retailers worldwide to opt for special promotions to boost sales. Uniqlo, Foot Locker, Best Buy, Steam, Target, Alibaba, Expedia, Topman, Brooklinen, Levi’s, and numerous other companies offered massive deals and discounts, orbiting the holiday. Three million workers, aided by 4,000 planes and ships got ready for the world’s biggest online sale in the current year- with ‘revenge spending’ tipping to be one of this year’s biggest trends.  

A survey by market research firm Oliver Wyman found out that 86% of Chinese consumers were willing to spend the same as or more than what they did during last year’s Singles’ Day. The remaining 14% of survey respondents said that they had spent less on Singles’ Day, because of the unprecedented times. 

On The Outside

Singles’ Day has become the most lucrative shopping holiday in several places outside China as well. The holiday has particularly grown in Southeast Asia, with customers in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, who are the recipient of the huge discounts offered by Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada. In the United Kingdom, Singles’ Day is marked on March 11. It was initiated by a group of internationally recognised dating experts to help singles embrace themselves. Furthermore, Swedish Electronic retailer Elgiganten promoted a Singles’ Day campaign in Norway before implementing it in the other Nordic countries. 

MediaMarkt, a German Company, also promotes this day in its stores. Conversely, Belgian MediaMarkt also participates but the reactions have been negative. It is because November 11 is the anniversary of the Armistice of 1918 that ended the First World War. 

Moreover, awareness of Singles’ Day in New Zealand is still relatively low. According to a survey by PriceSpy, around 73% of Kiwis have never heard of this day, with just 12% of Kiwis reporting to have brought something during the world’s biggest shopping bonanza. 

Singles’ Day will continue to grow in importance for retailers outside of China, particularly in the United Kingdom, which last year grew their discounting assortment to mirror the United States. In the light of the pandemic and feel of 2020, upbeat marketing angles that touch on celebrating and treating yourself are drawing attention globally.  

An Antidote to Valentine’s Day 

Traditionally on Singles’ Day, people buy things, take themselves out for dinner, watch movies, sheepishly ruin dates, hang out with their other single friends and delve into the gratifying embrace of self-love. This phenomenon of retail therapy has resulted in oodles of sales, easily surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. 

Certainly, it is fun getting gifts on your birthday, Christmas and on other occasions- but how can people know what you actually want? On this day, you get to shop for yourself. I’m not just talking about buying yourself flowers or a decent meal. It is the day to show yourself some real love and appreciation. Go on, indulge. Splurge on those jeans you have been eying, or fancy wine club membership- you have earned it. 

Retailers all over the world are instigating exclusive, singles-oriented deals in Alibaba’s footsteps. Grab the benefit of special promotions- ticket for 1 to Fiji? Yes, please.


Samakshi Garg

Type A, Samakshi is currently pursuing Bachelor's in Commerce from University of Delhi. She loves deadlines and Pinterest.

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