Spending Singles

In China, 11/11 is “Singles’ Day,” the four 1s “symbolizing ‘bare branches,’ Chinese slang for bachelors.” Although “the true meaning of this holiday [is] hating singlehood,” it’s also a boon for business:

Thought to have originated about 20 years ago as a joke on college campuses, Singles’ Day was Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 1.57.45 AMonce an occasion for confessing one’s feelings to that special someone. But since 2010, online retailers have transformed the holiday, also known as “Double 11,” into an epic online shopping extravaganza akin to America’s Cyber Monday.

China has 271 million online consumers, meaning that almost half of China’s 591 million Internet users buy products online. E-commerce sites Taobao and Tmall, which saw a combined $1 trillion in sales in 2012, will both be running promotional campaigns during China’s Singles’ Day. Among the offers: 50 percent discounts on products like boyfriend body pillows and hoodies that read “I am single because I am fat.” Amazon.cn declared that the site would sell “20,000 products discounted by as much as 90 percent.” That includes a wedding ring, which singles can presumably buy, just in case. Jack Ma, founder of Internet giant Alibaba, told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang late last month that Alibaba’s sales on Singles’ Day 2012  were “nearly $3.3 billion” — more than double the roughly $1.5 billion purchased on Cyber Monday in 2012. For Singles’ Day 2013, Ma expects sales to exceed $4.9 billion.

Update from a reader:

Just thought I’d let you know that this was a really interesting post you put up about China, but the stat you quote that “E-commerce sites Taobao and Tmall, which saw a combined $1 trillion in sales in 2012…” is not actually correct. If you go to the source, it’s a combined 1 trillion Yuan, which would be $160 billion.