When the clock tolled midnight on November 11, 2014 the curtain raised on an all-out business promotion war between e-commerce giant Alibaba and every other retailer in China. It’s called Singles Day; it’s the largest online shopping day on Earth and you’ve probably never heard of it.
To give you a sense of just how much money was spent on Tuesday, a couple of quick facts:
• Alibaba alone reported US$9.3 billion (57 billion RMB) in one day sales, shattering last year’s tally of US$5.8 billion (35 billion RMB).
• The first 20 minutes of trading volume on Alibaba exceeded US$1 billion (6.1 billion RMB); it took an hour to reach the same mark last year.
• The largest U.S. shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, comparatively took in a combined US$3 billion last year.
Booming at the Box Office
In the film industry, Single’s Day is equally lucrative. During 2011’s Single’s Day, a film called LOVE IS NOT BLIND earned $US49 million (300 million RMB) and created a phenomenon in Chinese movie history that forced Chinese studios to take notice of the “holiday” potential. Now there are a large number of romantic/love story movies carving up the Single’s Day box office.
This year’s day coincided with the last day of the APEC Summit being held in Beijing and as a result the six-day government and business “holiday” created by APEC. Analysts believe that the six-day APEC holiday effectively expands the reach of Single’s Day for movie-goers to more than a week, which will help drive higher box office returns.
Where Did It Come From?
Singles’ Day originated from Nanjing University in 1993. It got the name “Singles’ Day” because the date consists of four “ones”. These college students graduated and carried the university tradition into popular culture. Single’s Day then took on a life of its own thanks to the Internet. It was this anti-Valentine’s Day culture that became the root of this unofficial economic holiday across China.
Single’s Day was first adopted by Alibaba with just 27 merchants in 2009; this year’s festival featured deals from 27,000 vendors through Alibaba alone and reached shoppers in more than 200 countries. Later copyrighted by Alibaba as the “Double 11” Festival, the day has grown over the years into a nearly week-long promotion offering discounts and deals in the name of not being single.