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Brief Published: 16 Nov 2017

Western Brands Cash In on China’s Singles’ Day

Singles' Day 'The Arrivals'

Perhaps not surprisingly in the era of globalisation, Western retailers have finally added China’s Singles’ Day (the biggest money-spinner on earth in terms of retail ‘events’) to their list of ‘holidays’ to target.

Invented eight years ago by Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba as an antidote to the disenfranchisement of Valentine’s Day, Singles’ Day – November 11 – now generates more instant sales than any other global shopping day. Alibaba took an astounding $25.3bn of sales this year (up 40% from 2016), while Chinese e-tail competitor JD.com amassed an impressive $19bn (90% of all transactions made on Alibaba were made via mobiles, Alibaba, 2017). In comparison, combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US amounted to $6.79bn in 2016 (Forbes, 2017).

Buoyed by these successes, Western brands are beginning to wade in on the event, including US fashion store Opening Ceremony, German luggage brand Rimowa, L’Oreal and Unilever. All collaborated with Alibaba on appearances during its shoppable See-Now-Buy-Now fashion gala (broadcast on seven platforms including local TV, reaching 100 million viewers), or by launching limited editions in 60 pop-ups in 12 Chinese cities.

Several independent Western brands hijacked the holiday to present global e-shoppers with another reason for pre-Christmas spending. Outerwear brand The Arrivals and lifestyle store Need Supply in the US as well as British fashion concept store LNCC all ran marketing campaigns, largely e-newsletters, containing promos anchored in being single – plus 11% discount codes. See also China & Beyond: Singles’ Day Goes Omni-Channel.

“With over 225 countries taking part in the festival this year, it’s clear that the world is paying attention from a shopping perspective,” says Gareth Ellen, chief operating officer and regional planning director of China at marketing agency Geometry Global. “Clearly there are some western brands ‘getting it right’ and winning big during this retail extravaganza. Three of the top 10 selling brands in this year’s Global Shopping Festival were Western; Nike, Uniqlo, and Adidas, while in the cosmetics category six of the top 10 brands were from outside China – including L’Oreal, Estee Lauder and Lancome.”

For more on rethinking retail’s shopping ‘holidays’, see Renegade Retail