Singles Day: what is China’s national day of celebrating single people - and why are there huge sales?

Did you think Black Friday sales were manic? Well they are moderate in comparison to the world’s biggest 24-hour online shopping extravaganza - China’s Singles Day

November 11 2019 saw over $20 billion spent by 6.30am, and despite the coronavirus pandemic, this year is not expected to disappoint.

Never heard of it? Here is everything you need to know about China’s Singles Day.

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What is the history of Singles Day?

Singles Day is the world's most successful online shopping event
Singles Day is the world's most successful online shopping event

Singles Day is an unofficial holiday in China aimed at celebrating bachelors and bachelorettes - the opposite of Valentine’s Day.

In 1993, an all-male dorm at Nanjing University organised parties to celebrate being single as they did not enjoy the negativity attached to being single at university.

As the 90s progressed, the idea spread throughout the university and was adopted into Chinese culture.

Originally celebrated by only males, women also participate now and despite attempts to promote the positives of being single, the day is popular on social media for singles to indicate their hopes for a relationship and also for blind dates and marriages to be held.

Often referred to as 11.11 or double 11, the day was used to throw blind date parties and other events.

In 2009, Alibaba first commercialised the day with huge discounts across its two sites, Tmall and Taobao where thousands of retailers sell their products.

The online marketplace sees price slashes of up to 50% and the number of online stores participating in the event grows year on year.

Last year, the day saw profits reach higher than those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, to the value of £23bn.

Why do Chinese people celebrate it?

The day is celebrated as a reversal of Valentine’s Day and the date was no coincidence.

The number ‘1’ represents a naked or bare stick, which in China represents a single man as he has no branches to add to the family tree.

As couples celebrate Valentine’s Day by exchanging gifts, singles buy lavish gifts for themselves on China’s Singles Day, with generous price cuts offered by many retailers.

Despite being a celebration of single people, many couples now also marry on 11 November, with an average of 4,000 weddings taking place on China’s Singles Days, compared to the usual 700 per day.

Will there be any changes this year due to the pandemic?

This year is expected to break records once again, with consumers expected to spend billions of dollars on online sales. The pandemic means that many Chinese people have been unable to travel for shopping trips, and are likely to spend a lot online.

More than 350,000 local and international brands will participate in the price slashes, with homes, cars, robot hoovers and health products high on the list.

Items such as oxygen chambers are an expected favourite, in light of the pandemic.

Logistics company Cainiao has employed more than 3 million people to support the delivery of products in 10,000 mobile lockers, to ensure social distancing is maintained.

This year Singles Day is also expected to attract a lot of scammers who will be trying to trick consumers, and the police from various Chinese provinces have issued warnings on social media platform Weibo about a ‘fake refund’ scam aimed at those who have bought new phones.

Can I grab a bargain?

While the sales are most popular in China and southern Asia, the UK are the biggest spenders in Europe on 11 November.

This year, companies trading in the UK who are participating, include tech giants AliExpress, electric scooter company Xiaomi and smart-lighting and tech company Novostella.

Does the UK have a Singles Day?

The UK celebrates National Singles Day on 11 March each year, though it isn’t quite the shopping spectacle the Chinese have come to know.

This day was thought up by dating experts who wanted to change the celebration from the original Singles Awareness Day (ironically abbreviated to SAD) which took place on 15 February.