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Retailers reluctant to jump on Singles Day shopping event

In recent years, the Singles Day shopping event has caught on rapidly in the UK, but could its clash with Remembrance Day be causing many retailers to remain reluctant to endorse it?

“Singles Day, which really took off in China on 11th of the 11th, 2011, was initially created by single-male university students in China, as a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day; a day to buy themselves gifts,” explained David Jinks MILT, head of consumer research at ParcelHero.

“It came about because of a surplus of men as a result of China’s then one-child policy. It swiftly rose to become a bigger shopping event than Black Friday or Cyber Monday; and has been catching on fast in the West, and particularly in the UK, where it is ideally timed to kick off the Christmas shopping season in earnest.”

But there is a strong reason why it may never really take root in the UK, revealed Jinks: “Singles Day’s clashes with Remembrance Day, traditionally marked on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate the fallen soldiers of World War I and subsequent wars. That means many UK  retailers are reluctant to jump aboard the world’s biggest shopping event.

“For many Brits, November 11th is Armistice or Poppy Day. That makes it a very sensitive date, and not one that easily lends itself to commercialism. That’s very different to China, where last year global superstar Mariah Carey kicked off Alibaba’s event in Shanghai. It’s a very tricky issue for British brands, especially as at least 70% of UK online shoppers are now happy to buy from overseas, including of course Chinese, web sites, if they can’t get what they what from UK retailers.”

ParcelHero’s latest research shows shoppers spent £34.45 billion ($45 billion) on Singles Day last year, with £23.81 billion on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s sites alone. UK Singles Day sales reached £1.1m last year and are likely to rise by over 10% this year, believes ParcelHero.

“British retailers and shoppers have certainly embraced Singles Day to a certain extent. Brits spend more than any other European nation on the event; in fact only Germany comes anywhere close to UK retailers’ sales,” said Jinks.

“ASOS, M&S and Waitrose have held Singles Day sales on Alibaba’s Tmall site in recent years, with major UK brands such as Dyson, Burberry and Jaguar-Land Rover joining in the bonanza. UK stores River Island, New Look, Zavvi and Sports Direct have also offered Singles Day deals. No wonder it’s gaining in popularity. It’s the ideal date for the organised Christmas shopper to grab bargain gifts before the panic of the real Christmas rush – perfect for early birds and everyone who likes to get Christmas shopping out of the way.”

He summed up: “Is Singles Day Christmas or crass? Shopping on sensitive days is a delicate issue. When John Major’s Government introduced Sunday trading back in 1994 it was highly controversial, but consumers soon embraced Sunday shopping.  Perhaps the same will hold true for November 11th. However, the idea of people tapping shopping orders during the minute’s silence does seem highly insensitive.”

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