Rachel Lu

Retail Therapy for China’s Lonely Hearts Rakes in Billions

A conventional calendar won’t tell you this, but November 11 is Singles Day in China. The new “holiday” was supposedly invented by a few college students in China about 20 years ago as an inside joke; there are four 1′s in 11/11. It has since evolved into a national phenomenon.

No doubt the theme has resonated with the 180 million singletons in China, many of whom are young Internet users. Is it a time to panic about dying alone, to stress over that special someone who doesn’t know you exist, to have a good cry over a recent break-up?

Leave it to Taobao, China’s e-commerce behemoth, to lead the charge in bombarding singletons at their most vulnerable and fragile moment with Internet ads for deep discounts and free shipping. Tmall, Taobao’s B2C portal, began to advertise its ‘shopping extravaganza‘ on Singles Day weeks before the event. And it seems to have hit the spot.

During the very first minute of November 11, over 10 million people tried to access Tmall, or three times the number in 2011. As of 13:38, Tmall announced on Sina Weibo that its total turnover on the day thus far had reached 10 billion RMB (about US$1.6 bllion) on Alipay, its online payment platform.

Turning the day into China’s version of “Cyber Monday,” however, has its detractors. @杨樾杨樾, a media personality, tweets on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, “This ‘Singles’ Day’ is a pretty screwed-up holiday. Businessmen invented it out of nowhere to have an excuse to make money between National Day and Christmas. However, for those singletons who don’t want to be single and who are really lonely, it is a day of depression and anxiety that they cannot hide from. I have read the reflections written by a few single friends [on this day], and I did not have the heart to disturb them. 11/11–a bad holiday that turns the depression of others into commercial consumption.” [1]

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • China Newz

    Corporations make a lot of money off of Valentine’s Day. So what is the problem if a few companies try to target their products for Single’s Day. It’s better to have an empty wallet than an empty heart.