What the world's largest shopping day says about China

What the world's largest shopping day says about China
From BBC - November 11, 2017

I still remember growing up in communist China in the 1970s, when my mother and neighbours would use their ration tickets to buy meat at a state-run store.

Very little thought went into shopping because there was not much to buy. People simply bought what little was available.

Even in the 1980s, shopping in Beijing was little better.

Back then, shopping was just something you had to do to get what you needed. It certainly was not the big extravaganza it has become with the popularity of Singles Day.

Now in its ninth year, the day is officially called the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. 11.11 stands for the 11 November, when it is held. The two numbers were chosen to symbolise the wishes of single people to be in a relationship, as two elevens next to one another appear like two couples.

It was originally a non-commercial festival started by male college students who did not have a girlfriend. They created a day to get together to celebrate bachelorhood.

But the Chinese retailer Alibaba caught on to it and has turned it into the largest online shopping day in the world. Alibaba says more than one million retailers worldwide took part this year, including US department store Macy's.

Alibaba says this year's sales amounted to $25.3bn (19bn), $7.5bn more than in 2016. Only half way into this year's Singles Day, sales had already surpassed last year's total.

As I digest these figures, my mind flashes back to childhood images of everyone wearing the same style of button-down shirts and elastic-waisted baggy trousers - so-called Mao suits.We were lucky if we got a set of new clothes once a year.

Relatives and friends have proved to me how widespread Singles Day has become. One of my cousin buys six months' worth of household supplies on that day. A friend spends as much as $500. Some people spend much more. Even my uncle in his seventies has jumped on the bandwagon this year, buying underwear and snacks online.


Continue reading at BBC »