Singles Day sales in the U.S.? They’re coming slowly but don’t get too excited

By Zlati Meyer

Today is Singles Day, but unless you live in China, you may not know that.

It’s a huge shopping holiday in the most populated country on Earth, and this year is extra significant to retail observers, because Singles Day, aka 11/11, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It was first introduced by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba as an online-shopping extravaganza.

According to Adobe Analytics, Chinese young people love to mark the day—and sellers love that they do so by spending money. And not just a little bit; more revenues are generated than from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. This year, the estimate is $29 million over those five days, down slightly from 2018’s $30-plus billion, so imagine what that means for Chinese retailers.

Singles Day is slowly making its way across the Pacific to the United States. Twenty-four percent of U.S. retailers are planning to run Singles Day promotions, Adobe Analytics found.

Because Adobe’s survey is aggregated, the data becomes anonymized, so the company declined a Fast Company request for examples of retailers offering these 11/11 deals. Adobe Analytics also said it didn’t do the survey last year, so it has no 2018 percentage information to compare this year’s to.

But Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at the Columbia Business School, says Singles Day will never become an American phenomenon. “We have a long-standing history of event after event after event. We’re in the process of watching Black Friday, historically the day after Thanksgiving, migrate as early as Labor Day,” he says. “Our calendar in the United States is filled with quasi-motivational shop-now [days].”

Red, white, and blue shoppers also already have a retail holiday completely unrelated to the holiday-shopping season: Prime Day. Invented by Amazon, the 2019 celebration was July 15-16. (The company hasn’t released details about Prime Day 2020 yet.)

Though this summer’s celebration was 48 hours, the original Prime Day, held on July 15, 2015, to mark Amazon’s 20th birthday, lasted only 24 hours, according to the e-commerce titan’s website.

According to Cohen, there are retailers who’d like to create a Singles Day in the U.S., but they’d have to find a place on the calendar that’s not already loaded. Even still, it’s not likely to become the massive event Alibaba has unleashed.

“It’s label-slapping. It’s ‘let’s run an event and call it Singles Day, because it’s increasingly received lots of publicity,’” he continues. “A single retailer getting in on someone else’s parade is meaningless.”

This year, Singles Day falls out on Veterans Day, which for some Americans is a day off from work and school. This quirk of the calendar might lead to a bit of extra sales, but nothing even close to the magnitude Chinese sellers will experience.


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