Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Singles Day?

     November 11th was Singles Day in China. It was also the single biggest shopping day in China… ever. For that matter, it was the single biggest shopping in the history of the world… ever. The fact China had the biggest shopping day ever is not really a surprise when you consider that it is the most populous country in the world with a population of 1.37 billion people accounting for 19% of the worlds population. But, Singles Day?
     Singles Day is a relatively new holiday in China. Per a National Public Radio report:
In the 1990s, Chinese university students began celebrating being unattached on Nov. 11, which of course is abbreviated 11/11.  
The idea was for singles to go out, go to parties, go to bars without all the Valentine's Day commercial schmaltz.
At least that's what it was. Now it's the biggest commercial holiday on the planet. 
Chinese shoppers bought more than $9 billion in goods for themselves today. Alibaba began promoting the celebrations in recent years as a way for singles to treat themselves to something special, and online retailers jumped in, offering deep discounts on purchases.
     Singles Day has turned into a day when people by gifts not for others but for themselves. It is a day to indulge oneself with at treat or more and more a luxury gift. It is a very different and, as the NPR report states, new kind of holiday. From a shopping perspective, it is huge. $9 Billion in sales is three times what was spent in 2013 for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US.  Apparently, one kind of "commercial schmaltz" has been replaced by another.
     Again while the sales numbers are impressive, it is proportional to populations of the China and the US. As China has emerged as a global economic powerhouse in the past ten to fifteen years, the buying power and lifestyles of the Chinese people has increased. This all kind of makes sense.
     The real surprise for me is the self-indulgent nature of the holiday. We, here in the good old USA, are supposed to be the most self-indulgent country in the world. Others keep telling us that all the time.  Yet, our busiest shopping day of the year is dedicated to purchasing gifts to give to others… not ourselves. Here come the Chinese, they create a holiday that is only fifteen or twenty years old. It is focused on self-indulgence and it unbelievably becomes the biggest shopping day on the planet. That is astounding.
Singles Day puts a lot of stress on the
Chinese parcel shipping supply chain.
      In the NPR report, Jack Ma, the founder and Chairman of Alibaba (the of China), envisions Singles Day spreading around the world. The NPR report did not think that would happen here as Singles Day is so close to our well entrenched holiday shopping season. There certainly is a case for the timing of Sngles Day, but I could see the concept of Singles Day taking off here nonetheless. Since it is made up holiday, we can put the US Singles Day in March. Heck, if I was Alibaba, Amazon, and other retailers, I would not want the US Singles Day to be on the same day as China’s. Stagger things so as not to strain the global retail supply chains all on the same day.
     I can see the advertisements, “After doing for and giving to others all year, isn’t it time that you did something for yourself?” I can see another advertisement playing on the old Janis Joplin song.
Why don’t I buy ME a new Mercedes-Benz
My friends all drive Porches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So why don’t I buy ME a new Mercedes-Benz
     Oh yeah, this could become a huge shopping holiday here.

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