Asia Life

Singles Day in China Decimates Online Shopping Records

Move over Cyber Monday. Chinese shoppers spent more than $5.75 billion in 24 hours.

China’s notoriously high gender imbalance – 1.15 men between the ages of 15 and 30 for every woman – is continuing to work wonders for the economy.

Yesterday was “Singles Day,” the Chinese answer to “Cyber Monday” online shopping campaigns that have in recent years become a popular pre-Christmas bargain hunting opportunity in the West. After 24 hours of furious keyboard smashing, touchscreen-tapping, and mouse-clicking had settled down, the Chinese had set a new bar for arbitrary consumerism.

Combining deeply discounted merchandise with an anti-Valentine’s Day vibe, Singles Day e-consumers spent an incredible $5.75 billion on Alibaba-owned online shopping portals alone – crushing last year’s total of $3.1 billion and utterly obliterating the $1.46 billion spent by Americans on Cyber Monday 2012.

“But the day, always on 11/11 – the single digits symbolize the “bare branches” of being an unwed Chinese – also reflects a real demographic challenge facing the country,” said Quartz. “There are between 50 to 60 million bachelors in China who may never find a life partner because of China’s large gender imbalance. As China’s population becomes disproportionately elderly and the work force shrinks, fertility rates are falling.”

Just six minutes after midnight, Alibaba Group’s – the most popular B2C retail website in China – had already posted $164 million in sales. The site claimed that enough bras were sold in one hour that, if folded and stacked, would reach three times higher than Mount Everest.

The singles shopping tradition was initiated by Alibaba in 2009, although many other online retailers have jumped on the bandwagon. Online investment firms and insurance providers also offer special incentives on Singles Day.

Alibaba reported that the most popular items of the day were handsets manufactured by Chinese smartphone upstart Xiaomi – the company racked up 100 million yuan ($16.4 million) in sales in the first three minutes of the campaign. The staggering sales figures are indicative of things to come.

“China has an estimated 270 million e-shoppers this year … not too much larger than America’s e-commerce user-base, which is a much higher proportion of the population than in China,” wrote Tech in Asia. “China’s online shopping boom still has a few more years of explosive growth. China’s top online sales day is growing at over 100 percent … while America’s Cyber Monday looks set to grow just over 20 percent this year.”

The increasing popularity of mobile devices made a big contribution to the success of Singles Day this year. In the opening hour of sales from midnight to 1 a.m., nearly a quarter of all transactions were made using smartphones.