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Black Friday is no match for China’s Singles’ Day

SHANGHAI, China — If the gluttony of Black Friday spending in the United States makes you blue, China’s Singles’ Day might help put things in perspective.

Singles’ Day, a pseudo-holiday in China on Nov. 11 (the date is composed of all single digit ones), was adopted in 2009 by Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, to celebrate the young and cash-flush.

Like Black Friday held the day after Thanksgiving and its younger sibling Cyber Monday, businesses in China promote sales on Nov. 11 in the hopes of skyrocketing purchasing.

The shopping spree day in China not only surpasses U.S. spending on Black Friday, it crushes it like the well-chiseled heel of a Jimmy Choo pump.

This year, Singles Day yielded $9 billion in sales for Alibaba alone in the nation of 1.3 billion people, whereas Black Friday online purchases totaled $1.2 billion in the United States last year.

The bargain blowout in China posed a problem for shipping all of the 278 million orders. Even with round-the-clock deliveries, some shoppers had to wait more than a week for their items.

But still, the deep discounts and convenience of the packages arriving at your door — even if it was a few days longer than usual — attracted at least two students at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

May Wang, 24, and Christine Wu, 21, said they indulged but were a little more practical-minded than their friends.

Wu said she purchased some needed clothes. “I didn’t represent much of my classmates,” she said. “They bought some things they didn’t need, because there is this atmosphere that if my friends and parents bought something and I didn’t, I’d be left out.”

Wang said she ordered some food staples for her mother. “I knew she would need to buy the food anyway, so I got it for her at a lower price.”

Nothing for herself? “I did buy some cosmetics,” she said.


This report was produced from a trip to China arranged by the National Press Foundation.

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