Treat yo’ self: Singles Day in the UK?

Emily Hogarth, 20 Nov 2018

With Black Friday coming up, we all have discount holidays on the brain, but there may be a discount day that completely passed you by – Singles Day.

Created by Chinese ecommerce site Alibaba, originally as an antidote to singledoms most hated holiday – Valentine’s day – and celebrated on the 11th November (11-11 get it?), Singles Day has become so much more than a celebration of your relationship status.

In China, its grown to be a hugely anticipated spending festival; there’s a countdown opening ceremony which celebrities attend (Mariah Carey this year!), and new products available for exclusive purchasing are revealed. This event is televised and has something like a spend-o-meter where the amount spent every second is visualised – in fact it has a strange resemblance to a UK charity event where the total donated is revealed in intervals….

In this way, it’s completely different from Black Friday. If we do compare them though, Singles Day trumps Black Friday’s $8m spend with a whopping $30.8 BILLION, within just 24 hours.

Singles Day in the UK?

With this dizzying number in mind, could UK retailers adopt this day and win some of that spending?

If we look at the growth of Black Friday in the UK, it’s easy to see how Singles Day could permeate British consumer consciousness and potentially see huge growth in a short number of years. Black Friday had a tentative start in the UK in 2010 when Amazon began offering their American discounts to British consumers. Within the last 8 years its become a staple discount day on many Brits calendars, with established retailers and smaller sellers alike getting involved. A number of respectable retailers in the UK got involved in Singles Day this year – could this signify the very beginnings of a soon to be standard discount holiday?

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Is the UK getting involved?

Whilst it may be that retailers begin their own Singles Day discounts, British brands also stand to benefit from selling their products through the Alibaba platform. Burberry and Dyson notably made huge gains this year through Alibaba’s Singles Day, and even car brand Jaguar-Land Rover reported sales of almost 100 cars through Taobao stores (local Alibaba shops).

There’s an increasing demand in China for quality, high-end products on Singles Day which British brands can fulfill. Likewise, a number of British retailers jumped on the Singles Day bandwagon this year – the likes of Asos, TopShop, Weekday, Marks and Spencer, and Waitrose. You may have seen some cautious marketing from these retailers:

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But it’s very likely that many people on the receiving end of this email had no previous knowledge of Singles Day. The more UK retailers and brands that embrace this day, the further the word will spread…

UK consumers who want to take part in the sales frenzy can purchase via Chinese sites. Of course this comes with some shortcomings that Black Friday doesn’t suffer from – long wait for delivery and possible issues with Chinese tech compatibility.

Will singles day take off in the UK?

November is already a very busy time for holidays and buying. Consumers are not only getting involved in Black Friday but also spending on Christmas gifts – something that isn’t an issue in China as Christmas isn’t widely celebrated. Do we need another discount day?

Although, due to the inevitable Christmas spend, perhaps the more discounts the merrier?

Retailers also need to seriously consider the fact that Singles Day (11the Nov) falls on the UK’s Remembrance Day. Will this prevent Brits from fully welcoming Singles Day into their calendars?

Singles Day vs. other discount days

The difference, and strength Singles Day has over other discount days is its humble beginnings; the story goes that four university friends began Singles Day as a celebration of their singledom. It’s a sentiment we can all get on board with, rooted in our personal lives rather than shops deciding they want more time to sell before Christmas (as Black Friday began).

In this way, any obstacles that may stand in the way of Singles Day could perhaps be easily tackled. The growing feeling among consumers that one should ‘treat’ oneself completely feeds into Singles Day’s mantra. Could this boost Single Day adoption in the UK?

The opportunity

Awareness of Singles Day is growing, perhaps only among retailers and brands at present but that will ultimately trickle down to the customers if retailers decide to embrace Singles Day.

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