WHAT THE HECK IS

What the heck is… Singles’ Day?

By Oliver Smith 10 November 2017
Image: VCG/VCG via Getty Images.
Summary

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: What is Singles' Day and what does it mean for your next shop?

Our weekly series What the heck is exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.

From centaur teams to net neutrality we’re on a mission to explain the difficult to explain.


This week you may have heard the phrase “Singles’ Day” bandied around.

Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t Beyoncé’s latest hit, but an annual festival that takes place in China every 11 November.

In recent years, this one day has transformed the world of online retail, with people spending £13.5bn last year.

In short: it makes Black Friday look like a blip.

If you want to show you’ve got business acumen, Singles’ Day is something you should know about. Good thing we’re here to help…

Read more: China gripped by £13bn Singles’ Day sales madness

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma at Singles' Day 2016. Image: VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

What the heck is Singles’ Day?

Think of Singles’ Day as a giant f**k you to Valentines Day.

It was started by Chinese people who wanted to embrace their singledom with ‘singles parties’.

The first record of the festival kicked off when students at Nanjing University founded Bachelors’ Day in 1993 and quickly spread among universities.

Since then it’s spiralled as China’s one-child policy and hard work ethic has seen the number of singles grow and grow – an unusual phenomenon in a culture that still places great value on marriage.

Singles’ Day can also be known as Double Eleven or the “bare sticks holiday” because of its date.

So what does Singles’ Day have to do with shopping?

Like Valentine’s Day, this once solely cultural event has since been hijacked to make money.

In 2009, online shopping goliath Alibaba seized Singles’ Day as an opportunity to boost sales between China’s Golden Week national holiday in October, and Christmas.

That year, consumers spent 50m yuan (£5m) and 27 merchants offered discounts.

Today, it’s the world biggest online sale event, and it looks set to grow even bigger.

How will Singles’ Day affect you?

All eyes may still be on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. But Singles’ Day really is the big shopping holiday you should start caring about – the event is quickly growing outside of China and looks to become a global phenomenon.

Alibaba may have the trademark for Singles’ Day right now, but imagine if Amazon found a workaround?

You could soon find yourself taking a stand against smug couples, and giving yourself your own discounted romantic treat…

Don’t you think you deserve it?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.