There’s no pre-dawn queuing. The stores don’t open at ridiculously early hours. There are no fights over who saw what first, and no long lines for the cashier. Yet in China yesterday, the amount of chopping completed in one day doubled the highest record for a single day of shopping anywhere in the world. Alibala recorded on-line sales of CNY57.1 billion – equal to US$9.3 billion – in one day.
Singles Day has become synonymous with shopping in Chinese culture. The four number ones that make up the date – 11/11 – is a quartet of singles (Chinese: 光棍节; pinyin: Guānggùn Jié; literally: “bare sticks holiday”). If “one is the loneliest number” then it’s never seen the inside of an Alibaba warehouse in November.
Today’s edition of The South China Morning Post provides a handy graphic to understand the scale of the event – and the demographics of those who make it happen (below).
These results fuel the post-IPO shimmer of Alibaba, now one of the world’s most valuable companies. And they’re making gains off the growth of consumerism in China. For those flying Cathay Pacific this month, their in-flight magazine Discovery includes a feature story on demographer Clint Laurent. He talks about the rise of the “empty nesters” in China (families with children not living at home). He says this demographic has the greatest potential for spending. And looking at the chart below from the magazine, it’s easy to see why China has more spending power.
In 18 years, 68% of households in China will be without children. No kids means no school fees, no orthodontists, no allowance, no clothing and heaps more cash. That’s why 55% of yesterday’s shoppers in China were married with children (see chart above from The South China Morning Post). It will be interesting to see what are the top-selling items, and what “empty nesters” buy to feather their homes.
The rise of the consumer in China is good news for the rest of the world. These increasingly sophisticated consumers are not only buying products “Made in China”. They’re searching for foodstuffs from Europe, technology from South East Asia, clothing from America and more. Even if they don’t rush the stores in the pre-dawn hours, they do appear to be ready to crash the servers as sales on Single’s Day shoot up 30-40% each year.
Meanwhile in the West, citizens of numerous countries stopped at 11:11 am to solemnly recognise and mourn those killed in wars. Armistice Day coincides with the anniversary of the end of hostilities of World War One. Lest we forget.
Poppy pins remain available on Alibaba and Taobao today.