Online shopping sales are expected to reach record levels as Chinese consumers flock to “Singles’ Day” discounts.

Couriers sort express packages at assembly line in Wenzhou on Nov. 12, 2014. Photo via bloomberg

Couriers sort express packages at assembly line in Wenzhou on Nov. 12, 2014.
Photo via bloomberg

As the name suggests, Singles’ Day began as a day for single people – apparently a chance to celebrate for the singletons, or “bare sticks”, symbolised by the four number ones in the date of 11 November – 11/11. The date is chosen for the connection between singles and the number ‘1’.

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This holiday became popular among young Chinese people. In recognition of the day, young singles organize parties and Karaoke to meet new friends or try their fortunes.

 

The Beginnings With 1

In 1993, as legend has it, a group of students at Nanjing University in China decided to celebrate “Bachelors’ Day,” in honor of their single status. The students called it “Guanggun jie,” which also translates as “bare branches day.”

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The idea soon spread across Chinese society, although the name was changed to “Singles’ Day” to encourage unmarried females to join the festivities (which now include Blind Date parties).

 

Celebrating One-ness

For breakfast on Singles’ Day, singles often eat four Youtiao (deep-fried dough sticks) representing the four “ones” in “11.11” and one Baozi (steamed stuffed bun) representing the middle dot.

Photo via delisnacks

Photo via delisnacks

In 2011, an above-average number of marital celebrations occurred in Hong Kong and Beijing on November 11. In addition to meaning ‘single,’ the four ‘ones’ of the date can also mean ‘only one’ as in ‘the only one for me.’ Some people will use this date and this meaning to tell their special someone that they are the only ‘one’ in their heart.

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Not every single is happy on this day. They may tease themselves for being still single. Some prefer to watch movies in a theatre. Some schools of a university would put forward a special program to gather singles together for celebration. In recent years, there has been more social attention to this holiday. For example, Taobaoshangcheng gives up to 70% discount on this day. There are many activities on the Internet to help singles find a mate.

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Some singles also choose to say goodbye to their single lives on this day: many attend ‘blind date’ parties and many people choose to marry on this day.

 

The Market Is … The Market

As more people join in the celebration of this holiday, it has become a great opportunity for companies targeting younger consumers, including restaurants, Karaoke, and online shopping malls. For example, the Chinese online shopping mall Taobao sold 19 billion CNY (about 3 billion USD) of goods on November 11, 2012.

Singles’ Day has since evolved into a major shopping holiday, similar to Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the U.S. And just as U.S. corporations like Hallmark adopted Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to boost sales, Chinese online retailers like Alibaba, a massive online marketplace, have embraced the cultural phenomenon that is Singles’ Day.

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And that embrace comes with good reason as Alibaba online marketplace alone reported over $9 billion in sales last year. Alibaba, which acts as a bazaar for online merchants, has taken advantage to a remarkable extent of growing disposable incomes in China.

As with all holidays and special occasions that may cause possible feelings of sadness for many, Singles’ Day reminds everyone that we are not really alone.

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Be it an opportunity to treat oneself with treats and shopping or using it as an opportunity to share one’s self (not just with love and other socially-induced pressure) with our gifts and capabilities which others may benefit from.

“Singles’ Day is a day about one that is all.”

 

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