China economy

Record numbers of shoppers take advantage of 'Singles Day'

Record numbers log on to e-commerce sites to take advantage of a day dedicated to encouraging the lovelorn to part with their money

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2016, 5:00pm

Any possible regrets about being single appeared to take a back seat to shopping yesterday, with a record number of people taking advantage of big discounts on Singles' Day, which appropriately falls on November 11, as the date features four "ones".

Thousands of online merchants at offered discounts of 50 per cent or more on a wide variety of goods, from diapers to Prada and Gucci bags.

The sales launched at midnight on Saturday, and by 1.38pm yesterday, Tmall and Taobao, two online sales platforms under the Alibaba Group, had registered record sales of 10 billion yuan (HK$12.3 billion) - which had been the full-day target.

Competing with Tmall and other e-commerce sites, one of the mainland's biggest online retailers of books, offered shoppers 400 yuan worth of coupons for every 200-yuan purchase.

And the effort to boost sales was not limited to online shops.

Many shopping malls, from those in large metropolitan areas such as Beijing to smaller cities such as Taiyuan in Shanxi , also slashed prices to attract customers, according to media reports.

Tourism companies were also busy, launching discounted travel packages aimed at young and single men and women.

Many of the deals, however, were too good for non-singles to pass up.

Wang Xiumei, a Guangzhou resident who is married with a child, said she spent more than 10,000 yuan.

"I know I am not single, but as long as there is a discount, who cares?" she said.

There are about 100 million single adults on the mainland, and the number is increasing, according to Xinhua.

A survey by the Ministry of Civil Affairs early this year showed that more than 90 per cent of women interviewed would not dream of dating a man without a stable income, and 70 per cent said that they would not consider a man without an apartment in his name.

It seems single men may be doomed.

About 20 per cent of women set the minimum monthly income of their would-be boyfriends at 10,000 yuan, or nearly three times the average wage in Beijing last year.

The Singles' Day celebration began on university campuses nearly two decades ago, and the day has become increasingly popular over the years, especially among urban singles, who often buy themselves and other single friends gifts as consolation or encouragement.

Smart business owners started to pounce on the opportunity by offering discounts on the day, and Singles' Day has become one of the world's busiest shopping days. Ma Yun , president of Alibaba, told China Central Television on Saturday that Singles' Day had created an environment in which online and traditional businesses squared off for sales.

"There's a revolution in the new business ecosystem, represented by e-commerce, to overturn the ecosystem of traditional businesses," he said.

Alibaba also said that online shops on Tmall made 5 billion yuan in the first eight hours yesterday, or nearly as much as all the brick-and-mortar shops in Shanghai made in the eight-day National Day holiday last month.

Some consumers, however, were more reluctant to splurge. Liu Yue, who lives in the Chaoyang district of Beijing, is single and a frequent online shopper, but she said she suppressed the urge yesterday.

She said past experience showed that discounts were often not as big as claimed.

"Many discounted goods are of poor quality or design and have been selling poorly," she said. "I'd rather buy something at the normal price than something you would want to throw away as soon as you open the package."