Singles’ Day: The Global Shopping Phenomenon


Singles’ Day, also known as Double 11, is a Chinese holiday celebrated on November 11th by unmarried individuals. It originated in 1993 as a playful response to Valentine’s Day, and today, it has become the world’s largest online shopping day. This article explores the history, significance, and global impact of Singles’ Day, as well as how retailers have capitalized on it to boost sales.

What is singles’ day?

Singles’ Day, also known as Double 11, is a unique holiday celebrated primarily in China on November 11th. It has gained immense popularity in recent years and is characterized by unmarried individuals treating themselves to gifts and presents. This celebration has transformed Singles’ Day into the largest online shopping day globally, surpassing even Black Friday and Cyber Monday in terms of sales.

The origin of singles’ day

Singles’ Day, originally called “Bachelor’s Day,” had its beginnings at China’s Nanjing University around 1993. A group of four single male students living in the Mingcaowuzhu dormitory came up with the idea as a response to the societal emphasis on romantic relationships during holidays like Valentine’s Day. They decided that November 11th would be a day for singles to celebrate their status with events and social activities.

Over time, this concept spread beyond Nanjing University, gaining popularity in other Chinese universities and eventually across various parts of China. The celebration attracted both men and women, prompting the name change to Singles’ Day.

The evolution of singles’ day

Singles’ Day has undergone significant changes since its inception. Here’s a look at how the holiday has evolved:

  • Retailers’ role expansion: Initially, Singles’ Day was about celebrating being single. However, retailers recognized the commercial potential and have expanded their involvement, offering a wide range of products.
  • Globalization: The holiday’s globalization has led to increased cultural exchange, with people from different countries participating in the festivities.
  • Extended sales periods: As the holiday grew in popularity, the duration of discounts and promotions has extended beyond the original 24-hour window.

Singles’ day beyond China

What began as a local celebration has now become a global phenomenon. Singles’ Day has extended its reach to other countries in Southeast Asia and even some European nations like Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the celebration, known as “Great Britain’s Singles’ Day,” takes place on March 11th, organized by dating experts.

Retailers’ role in the celebration

While Singles’ Day is not an official public holiday in China, it has become the world’s largest online shopping event. This transformation occurred when Alibaba, a prominent Chinese e-commerce giant, introduced substantial discounts on its platform for 24 hours, starting at midnight on November 11th, 2009.

Since then, Singles’ Day has become synonymous with shopping and big discounts, much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. In 2021, Alibaba reported a staggering $84.5 billion in sales across its online platforms during Singles’ Day, a remarkable increase compared to previous years.

Initially lasting for 24 hours, the celebration has evolved to include extended discount periods offered by retailers like Alibaba, allowing them to capitalize on the occasion even further.

Singles’ day in the United States

While Singles’ Day is not officially celebrated in the United States, American consumers have shown interest in the shopping event. In 2019, they spent $2.7 billion on November 11th, marking a 38% increase from the previous year. However, it faces competition from established U.S. holidays and shopping events, making substantial growth unlikely.

Experts argue that creating a new shopping holiday in the United States, like Amazon’s Prime Day, would be challenging due to conflicts with existing holidays like Veteran’s Day and Halloween.

Nevertheless, some U.S. retailers have begun promoting Singles’ Day with discounts and sales, suggesting that its popularity may continue to grow.


Is singles’ day celebrated in the U.S.?

While not an official holiday in the United States, Singles’ Day has garnered attention from American retailers who use it as an opportunity to boost sales.

How do singles’ day sales compare to other shopping holidays?

In 2020, Alibaba reported $74.1 billion in sales on Singles’ Day, surpassing Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday in the United States, highlighting its significance as a global shopping event.

Weigh the Risks and Benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Allows singles to celebrate their status
  • Significant discounts and sales
  • Global shopping phenomenon
  • Not an official holiday in most regions
  • Competition with other holidays
  • Limited growth potential in some countries

Popular singles’ day traditions

While shopping is a significant aspect of Singles’ Day, it’s not the only way people celebrate. Here are some popular traditions associated with the holiday:

  • Gifts to oneself: Many individuals buy gifts for themselves as a way to treat themselves on this special day. These gifts can range from clothing and electronics to luxury items.
  • Social gatherings: Singles’ Day has evolved into a social occasion where friends and singles come together to celebrate their single status. Parties, dinners, and gatherings are common.
  • Online livestreaming: E-commerce platforms often host livestreaming events featuring celebrities and influencers, attracting shoppers with exclusive deals and entertainment.
  • Charitable acts: Some individuals use Singles’ Day as an opportunity to engage in acts of charity and giving back to the community.

Singles’ Day, originally conceived as a playful response to the romantic overtones of Valentine’s Day, has grown into a global celebration of singlehood and a massive online shopping extravaganza. This unique holiday, celebrated on November 11th due to its visual representation of four singles standing together (11/11), has transcended its origins in China to become an international phenomenon.

Singles’ Day has not only provided an opportunity for unmarried individuals to indulge in self-gifting and festivities but has also transformed into a significant commercial event. Leading the charge in this retail revolution is Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which initiated the trend of offering substantial discounts on November 11th. Over the years, these discounts have extended well beyond 24 hours, and the sales figures have consistently shattered records.

While Singles’ Day is not officially recognized in many countries, including the United States, it has piqued the interest of American consumers and retailers alike. However, it faces competition from well-established holidays and shopping events, which makes substantial growth challenging.

Beyond shopping, Singles’ Day is marked by various traditions, from individuals gifting themselves to social gatherings and acts of charity. The holiday’s influence has spread to different corners of the globe, including Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America, signifying its global appeal.

In essence, Singles’ Day is a testament to the power of celebration and commerce, bringing together individuals to embrace their single status and indulge in a little self-love while driving substantial economic activity. As it continues to evolve and expand its reach, Singles’ Day remains a fascinating cultural and retail phenomenon worth celebrating and observing.

Frequently asked questions

What is the significance of November 11th for Singles’ Day?

November 11th was chosen for Singles’ Day because the date (11/11) consists of four ones, symbolizing four singles standing together, making it a fitting day to celebrate singlehood.

How did Singles’ Day originate?

Singles’ Day, originally known as “Bachelor’s Day,” began in 1993 at China’s Nanjing University as a lighthearted response to Valentine’s Day. It was initiated by four single male students who wanted to create a day for singles to celebrate their status.

Is Singles’ Day only celebrated in China?

No, Singles’ Day has expanded its reach beyond China. It is now celebrated in various countries, including Southeast Asian nations like Singapore and European countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium.

How have retailers capitalized on Singles’ Day?

Retailers, led by Alibaba, have turned Singles’ Day into a massive shopping event by offering significant discounts and promotions. It has become the world’s largest online shopping day, with sales surpassing those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Is Singles’ Day celebrated in the United States?

While Singles’ Day is not an official holiday in the United States, some American consumers participate in the shopping event. However, its growth is hindered by competition from existing U.S. holidays and shopping events.

What are some popular traditions associated with Singles’ Day?

Aside from shopping, Singles’ Day is marked by various traditions, including individuals buying gifts for themselves, social gatherings, online livestreaming events, and acts of charity and community giving.

How does Singles’ Day sales compare to other major shopping holidays?

In terms of sales, Singles’ Day has surpassed traditional shopping holidays like Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. Alibaba, for example, reported over $84 billion in sales during Singles’ Day in 2021.

How has Singles’ Day evolved over the years?

Singles’ Day has evolved from a celebration of being single to a global shopping phenomenon. Retailers have expanded their role, and the holiday’s duration has extended beyond the original 24-hour window. It has also facilitated cultural exchange between countries.

Key takeaways

  • Singles’ Day, celebrated on November 11th, is a holiday for unmarried individuals.
  • It originated at China’s Nanjing University in 1993 as a response to Valentine’s Day.
  • Singles’ Day has grown into a global celebration, with widespread retail promotions and discounts.
  • Alibaba’s introduction of discounts in 2009 propelled Singles’ Day to become the world’s largest online shopping day.
  • While not officially celebrated in the United States, American consumers have shown interest in Singles’ Day shopping.
View article sources
  1. What is Singles’ Day and how is it celebrated? – CLI
  2. Singles Day 2022: What is the celebration and where did it … – The Independent
  3. Singles Day (November 11th) – Days of The Year