From Alo Yoga to Levi’s, U.S.-based brands are increasingly promoting deals for Singles’ Day, China’s blockbuster shopping event.
First championed by Alibaba in 2009, Singles’ Day started as a one-day affair on Nov. 11 but has become more of a drawn-out campaign in recent years. The shopping extravaganza is typically the biggest one of the year worldwide, bringing in more sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, according to CNN. The festival is considered an unofficial holiday that celebrates those not in romantic relationships. The date, when spelled out, resembles four single people.
While Singles’ Day’s origins are in China, brands from dozens of countries list sales on Alibaba’s site every year. This year’s event featured 290,000 brands from more than 90 countries and regions, Alibaba said in a press release. In an unprecedented move, Alibaba chose not to disclose earnings from this year’s Singles’ Day, saying in a statement that gross merchandise value was “in line with last year’s GMV performance despite macro challenges and Covid-related impact.” Last year brought in 952.3 billion yuan, or $134.2 billion.
While 2022’s event was perhaps not a blockbuster for Alibaba, some U.S. brands used the occasion to market sales to their U.S. customers. It’s a notable shift in strategy, especially for retailers that have typically focused on shopping events more well-known to American consumers, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Below, Modern Retail unpacked what’s changed this year — and why.
‘Everybody had some sort of promotion’
Brands have offered Singles’ Day deals to U.S. customers before. But, compared to last year, “I was actually shocked at how many retailers had Singles’ Day promotions,” Gabriella Santaniello, founder and CEO at A Line Partners, told Modern Retail. “Everybody had some sort of promotion.”
The cosmetics brand Fresh, for instance, offered users 20% off, plus free standard shipping for a purchase of $50 or more. Levi’s advertised five deals, including an extra 50% off sale styles and beanies and hats from $14.99. Alo Yoga — which sells yoga apparel and accessories — offered up to 70% off sitewide. And, in a cheeky promotion, luxury eyewear company Moscot offered 30% off single-vision prescription lenses.
Others chose to hype the “11.11” aspect of the day, taking advantage of its appeal as a sort of “magic number.” This way, they could draw in customers who may not be as familiar with Singles’ Day, Santaniello said. “What I’ve seen the most is they [brands] promote Singles’ Day, and then they use the 11 creatively,” she explained.
Urban Outfitters, for example, offered a limited edition 12″ vinyl featuring 11 singles by 11 artists, including Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Kim Petras and All Time Low. Farmacy Skincare included an 11-piece gift set with a purchase of $85 or more. The “1” also played a role in some companies’ “buy 1, get 1 free.”
‘Retailers want to engage with their consumer’
Even if Singles’ Day is a newer concept for some U.S. shoppers, promotions at this time are not. Companies are already advertising early Black Friday sales as they look to clean out excess inventory ahead of the holidays. Jumping on board Singles’ Day could help maintain this momentum, Jessica Ramirez, senior research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, told Modern Retail.
“I don’t think it will have the magnitude that it has in China,” she said. But, she added, there’s a “promotional environment right now. Retailers obviously want to engage with their customer. I think it’s a trickle-down opportunity.”
Even in China, Ramirez pointed out, U.S. brands hurried to launch Singles’ Day sales early. Starting on Oct. 31, Nike offered certain items for 50% off and gave rewards members an additional discount of up to 100 yuan on select products. From Oct. 24 to Nov. 11, Michael Kors cut prices of some products in half and offered 500 yuan off purchases over 4000 yuan.
Even before complications from Covid-19 lockdowns, Singles’ Day sales started to flatten, Bain & Company said in a recent note. Of the shoppers who took part in Singles’ Day last year and planned to do so again, 34% said they planned to spend less. Only 24% said they were planning to spend more — “a markedly gloomier outlook than in 2021.”
A strategic opportunity
In the U.S., Singles’ Day sales could drive activity during a “lull” before Thanksgiving, Santaniello pointed out. “We’re back to a more normal retail environment,” she said. “It’s not like last year, the year prior, where you didn’t have a lot of supply and there was this urgency to shop. I think people are kind of spent out… and back to having a normal attitude towards the holidays and holiday shopping.”
Shoppers are changing their spending patterns due to inflation concerns. According to a study by Gartner conducted in July, 48% of U.S. consumers said they planned to shop for gifts in October and November, compared to 9% in December. Retailers are taking notice. Target, Walmart, Macys, Kohl’s and Wayfair all pushed their holiday promotions forward this year.
Singles’ Day sales move up the calendar, and “most U.S. consumers are already shopping for winter holiday gifts on 11/11,” Kassi Socha, director analyst at Gartner, said via email. “Given the impact of inflation and macroeconomic pressures, consumers will appreciate finding discounts and value earlier than Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year.”
Ultimately, these offers could help companies get a leg up on their competition, as well.
“Extending Singles’ Day to the U.S. is a strategic opportunity to capture additional early traffic and invest in marketing efficiently when every brand isn’t sending a discount-based Cyber Monday email or running a Black Friday social campaign,” Socha added.