Singles Day’ vs Black Friday

Singles’ Day and Black Friday are often mentioned in the same breath, and the two days of record-breaking sales do indeed have a lot in common. However, it is a mistake to assume that you know everything about Singles’ Day if you’re already familiar with Black Friday. The truth is that these two famous shopping days have some important distinctions.

Origins and Concept

Black Friday grew organically as retailers noticed higher-than-usual levels of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Whilst the event is highly commercialised now, retailers and marketers have mostly capitalised on an existing shopping trend. It kicks off the holiday shopping period in the run-up to Christmas, which is a major gift-giving holiday, and its date changes each year depending on which date the Thanksgiving holiday falls.

Singles’ Day, on the other hand, was devised as a marketing scheme from the beginning, although the date was already one on which young Chinese people celebrated being single with friends. It’s a fixed date that is easy for people to remember.

In theory, Singles’ Day is a day when consumers are meant to treat themselves to a gift, whilst Black Friday is traditionally a day when people give their Christmas shopping for other people a jump-start. However, it’s not uncommon for people to buy something for themselves on Black Friday, too, given the incredible sales that can be found on big-ticket items people are more likely to keep for themselves than gift to others, such as TVs.

There’s also the fact that Singles’ Day is essentially China’s only shopping holiday, unlike the US and UK, where gift-giving occasions are around every corner in the form of Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Father’s Day, among others.

Sales Figures

One of the biggest factors that sets these two days apart is their respective volumes of sales. In fact, when you look at the numbers, Singles’ Day wins, hands down. In fact, its total online sales are now more than double those of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday combined in the United States.

In 2012, for example, Business Insider reports that Alibaba’s websites racked up a total of $3 billion in sales, whilst Black Friday only noted a third of that amount. By 2015, sales on Singles’ Day in China were $14.3 billion, whilst the total for Black Friday in the U.S. stood at just $1.7 billion.

The following year, total online sales on Singles’ Day set a record at $25.57 billion, whilst Black Friday and Cyber Monday only noted online sales of $3.34 and $3.39 respectively. As you can see, not only is Singles’ Day outperforming Black Friday in terms of sales numbers, but it is also growing at a far more rapid pace.

Another big difference can be found in how consumers are making their purchases. Around 82 per cent of November 11 sales took place on mobile devices in 2016 in China, while it accounted for just 36 per cent of Black Friday sales in the US.

Geography

Black Friday is now the biggest shopping event of the year, not only in the US, where it started, but also in the UK and the Anglo-American world as a whole. In recent years, it has expanded to countries like Norway, Germany, Finland, and France. In-store shopping on this day often makes headlines around the world as people line up to snag limited-edition sales.

Singles’ Day, meanwhile, is still mostly confined to China and is largely online. Retailers and devout shoppers in other countries have heard of it, but it has yet to capture the interest of Europeans. Whilst Western retailers do participate via their presence on sites like Tmall, it has not caught on in other parts of the world.

Moreover, with November 11 marking sombre occasions in some other countries, it could face an uphill battle to note widespread adoption, unlike Black Friday. It’s the same day as Poland’s Independence Day and Remembrance Day in the UK, Ireland, France and Belgium, and some retailers have expressed reservations about hosting a shopping event on a day meant to honour servicemen killed in the line of duty.

Expansion into other parts of Asia seems likely, however, with Alibaba targeting Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2016 for the first time. If the past is any indication, Singles’ Day will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Singles’ Day and Black Friday are often mentioned in the same breath, and the two days of record-breaking sales do indeed have a lot in common. However, it is a mistake to assume that you know everything about Singles’ Day if you’re already familiar with Black Friday. The truth is that these two famous shopping days have some important distinctions.