Singles Day 2021: What is the celebration and where did it come from?

It’s the biggest shopping day in the world

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 09 November 2021 15:06
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Every year on 11 November, millions of people in China and other parts of the world celebrate Singles Day.

What started as an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration invented by young Chinese singletons has gone on to become the largest shopping day in the world.

While Singles Day is usually a 24-hour affair, in 2020, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba gave shoppers discounts from 1 November until 11 November. Over this period, it generated $71.4 billion (£52.6bn) in sales.

Here The Independent examines the phenomenon.

What is Singles Day?

An unofficial holiday that is primarily celebrated in China, it was created in 1993 as an antidote to Valentine’s Day, giving young Chinese singletons the chance to celebrate at events across the country and meet one another.

Major retailers quickly caught on to the fact that they could target young consumers by offering discounts across their stores and online.

It always takes place 11 November, a date which was chosen because of the sequence of 1s, which represent single people.

How did it start?

Thought to have originated at Nanjing University in 1993, Singles Day was initially only celebrated by male students.

But the day soon became popular among young and single Chinese people, who saw it as an opportunity to meet other singletons and began organising events and meet-ups to mark the event.

It became the global shopping event it is today in 2009, when e-commerce giant Alibaba, who make the majority of its sales via apps, began offering special discounts on the day.

How much money does it generate?

Last year, Alibaba generated more than $71 billion (£52bn) in sales, making it the biggest shopping event in the world.

Other large shopping days include Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which originated in the US.

Amazon said that independent businesses on its platform had made $4.8 billion (£3.5bn) in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2020.

Although this represented a 60 per cent increase from the previous year, the figure was still dwarfed by sales on Alibaba during its Singles Day promotion.

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