China kicks off world's biggest 1-day shopping spree


“Singles Day” may sound lonely, but those who have been taking part already November 11 can find some togetherness in what amounts to the world’s largest annual shopping spree.

In terms of money spent, China’s one-day festival of consumption is likely to eclipse Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday — combined, according to Adobe Analytics. The retail data tracking service estimates that the long U.S. holiday shopping weekend this year will generate total retail sales of $29 billion — that would be less than the $30 billion produced in 2018 by the 24-hour unofficial Chinese shopping holiday known as Singles Day.

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Officials announced Monday that the shopping blitz has already hit at least $23 billion in the first nine hours — that’s up 25% from 2018. The Reuters news agency points out that $1 billion worth of goods sold in 1 minute and 8 seconds.

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What’s morphed into an astounding revenue-generating enterprise started out among Chinese university students holding parties to celebrate being single in 1993, only to be co-opted by China-based retailing giant Alibaba 16 years later. 

Workers sort international parcels at a cross-border e-commerce industrial park ahead of the Singles Day online shopping festival in Hefei, Anhui, province, China, on November 2, 2019.  Reuters

Alibaba, China’s version of Amazon, marked down merchandise in a marketing campaign that had other e-commerce companies soon doing the same. A decade later, the event now gives Amazon Prime Day a run for its money.

This year, more than 200,000 brands are participating, Alibaba said. The company is hyping the event with a “Countdown Gala” featuring a performance by pop singer Taylor Swift.

American companies are also getting in on the act. Nearly a quarter of U.S. retailers plan to run promotions for Singles Day, according to Adobe, which surveyed more than 400 U.S. retailers with annual sales in excess of $500,000.

That said, U.S.-China trade tensions could ding American brands taking part this year, concludes another study by global consultancy AlixPartners.

Chinese consumers will spend 54% more this year than in 2018, but 78% said they would think twice about buying U.S. products due to loyalty to their country, AlixPartners found in a recent survey of more than 2,000 Chinese consumers.