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Editor’s Comment: Singles' Day is important – but let’s leave it in China

Kirsty McGregor

Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba’s annual Singles’ Day discounting event dwarfs Black Friday in terms of sales, and provides an important opportunity for British brands to break into the lucrative Chinese market. 

However, attempts to bring Singles’ Day to the UK smack of an underlying desperation to clear stock in what is becoming an increasingly difficult period for fashion retailers in the run-up to Black Friday.

Singles’ Day began as an 11 November “anti-Valentine’s” celebration for single people in China, and was transformed into a retail extravaganza in 2009, when Alibaba started using it to promote discounts.

It means nothing to the average UK shopper. Yet Asos and Boohoo were among the retailers to launch dedicated flash Sales in the UK this weeky.

Alibaba singles day 2019

Announcing its 20% off Singles’ Day flash Sale on Monday, Asos said in its email marketing: “Yep, it’s a thing now.” But is it? And I question the wisdom of educating British shoppers to expect another day of discounts, so close to Black Friday – itself  an import from the US. 

However, for British brands trying to grow in China, Singles’ Day is undoubtedly important. Sales across Alibaba’s platforms alone hit $1bn (£779m) after one minute and eight seconds, and reached a whopping $38.4bn (£29.9bn) by the end of the day.

Singles’ Day also offers an exciting way for UK brands to reach younger Chinese consumers. Live-streaming has been booming in China over the past couple of years, tapping into the socially connected Gen Z consumer with a mix of entertainment and ecommerce – allowing viewers to comment and shop as they watch.

This year on Singles’ Day, more than 1,000 brands were live-streamed on video channels such as TikTok and Kuaishou. Kim Kardashian West took part in a live-stream with Viya, a Chinese influencer who has more than 9 million followers, and sold 15,000 bottles of her KKW perfume in less than 10 minutes.

Singles’ Day can be extremely lucrative for brands staking a claim to the Chinese market, and live-streaming shows us a glimpse of what fashion retail could look like in the UK in the near future. But let’s leave this discounting day in China, and avoid importing yet another day of unnecessary Sales. 

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