The Impact of Chinese Singles Day on Retail

The Impact of Chinese Singles Day on Retail

February 21, 2024
4 min read

China’s unofficial holiday celebrating singletons’ shopping habits, known as Singles’ Day, is a momentous occasion for the Chinese retail industry each year. Originally celebrating unattached bachelors at university, it has become a retail phenomenon; wherein shoppers are encouraged to treat themselves. Part of this encouragement, of course, is the attractive discounts that retailers offer – making this a huge shopping day for consumers in China. With such an emphasis, both cultural and industrial, on one day of shopping, what impact is it having on the Chinese retail industry? 

Is Singles Day Still Important to the Retail Industry?

Singles Day had been celebrated since the early 1990s as a cultural occasion, but it took off as a major retail event around 2009 when Alibaba – the Chinese retail giant – began to push it. Offering customers exclusive discounts and one-day-only deals. Many years later, in 2023, sales were estimated at $156 billion – representing growth for some of the major retailers in this space. With such continued success for retailers like Alibaba,, and Tmall, Singles Day appears to be reigning supreme.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we reported some industrial trepidation surrounding the future growth of Singles Day. Though sales did continue to grow even through difficult economic circumstances between 2019 and 2021, Mintel reported that this had to do with the extension of the Singles Day period at this time. This was a time at which New Retail was put to the test, exacerbating retailers’ need to adapt away from singularly offline sales. 

Traditionally, Singles Day had been an in-person shopping experience, so brands were forced to innovate during the pandemic to ensure that this experience was replicated online. Judging by the excellent sales during and following the pandemic, retailers have not failed.

Alibaba, one of China’s most prominent retailers and a major proponent of Singles Day retail reported year-on-year growth over the Singles Day period, with also reporting record sales. Similarly to Black Friday and Boxing Day sales, as well as seasonal sales periods in particular industries, Singles Day once referred to a single 24-hour period, but now represents days and weeks of promotions, deals, and discounted prices. The extension of the Singles Day sales period can certainly account for some of the event’s growth, as it has become a major event in the retail calendar.

What Are Consumers Buying on Singles Day?

Singles Day began as an opportunity for unattached individuals in China to treat themselves to luxury items, acting as an alternative to the romance-focused Valentine’s Day. However, it has recently become a more widespread opportunity to get discounts on everyday essentials as well as treats and luxuries. Singles Day shoppers in 2023 were more focused on value for money than indulgences, as bulk deals on household necessities became a more significant category than in previous years. 

Looking Ahead with Mintel

Despite some industrial concerns surrounding Singles Day’s continuing growth through the coronavirus pandemic, retailers have largely succeeded in promoting the event as an online and offline event. It continues to represent a major event in the Chinese retail calendar, though shopping habits have altered slightly away from luxury purchases and towards bulk-buy deals and value-price household necessities. We expect Singles Day to continue in its success as a retail event, the ripple of which could have an impact on retail in the wider APAC region and potentially the rest of the world.

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