China’s Singles’ Day just passed and broke records the first hour during midnight with an increase of $4 billion in sales from the previous year.
Singles’ Day, also referred as Double 11, is a shopping event day in China similar to Black Friday in the U.S., where many E-commerce companies have discounted prices on their products. One of them is the E-commerce giant Alibaba which is constantly breaking records by selling millions of goods. This year’s Singles’ Day Alibaba surpassed an amount of $31 billion, about $4 billion more in sales than last year, through their E-commerce site Taobao.
Singles’ Day and Black Friday are considered to be the biggest shopping event days of the year. According to thebalance.com, last year’s Black Friday had a total sales of $8 billion, while Singles’ Day had $31 billion in sales this year.
But what is it that really distinguishes these two shopping event days except the number in sales? While trends are widely different in China compared to the west, there’s a clear distinction between these two shopping festivals, Black Friday is aimed towards shopping in physical stores while Alibaba’s sales derives from its E-commerce business.
Consumption patterns also widely differ from Black Friday and Singles’ Day. China is known to be a country of materialism, where luxury items and expensive accessories symbolize a rich lifestyle and high status in society. This gives a rise to the high consumption rate of goods among the Chinese middle-class in the country as well as abroad. In Sweden people tend to spend more money on things like travelling and other experiences, not really having the same view of a prestigious image obtained through materialistic goods.
However in Sweden, we see very different trends. Our shopping festivals can’t be said to be placed on one particular day, instead we have periods which provide discounted goods. The biggest one starting shortly after Christmas and ending before the New Year. As the shopping trends in Sweden along with its population are widely different from China, the numbers in sales of Singles’ Day and other shopping festivals will likely not be experienced in Sweden. Even the biggest Swedish companies, for instance IKEA, had an annual revenue of about $40 billion in the fiscal year of 2017, which is just a little more than what Alibaba experienced on Singles’ Day only.
China’s Singles’ Day event is also getting traction in other countries, Russia and the U.S. are two examples already committed to the Chinese shopping event day in terms of spending. More countries are now acknowledging foreign shopping event days such as Singles’ Day and start adopting these as local shopping festivals.
Although in response to these shopping event days and festivals, several movements against these days dedicated to excessive consumption of goods have taken form. Among these movements is ‘White Monday’. White Monday was first established in 2017 with an origin in Sweden, hence having a large amount of Swedish speakers & supporters. To this day, the movement has support from many big organizations like WWF, SSNC and several companies. One of the criticial points made from these movements, is particularly the impact large consumption of products leaves on the environment.
While Sweden has a long way to go to reach the same E-commerce trend that is being experienced in China, how will shopping festivals evolve from here? According to an article publicized by Tom Popomaronis on Forbes.com, shopping trends will evolve to be completely different from our traditional ways of shopping. The article conveys ideas that drop-shipping, automatic replenishment and AI will play a large role in replacing physical shopping in stores. The article adds that augmented reality, which is a perceptual world that is generated by a computer, will also be a thing where consumers can try goods through immersive virtual experiences.
André Bengtsson, intern at SwedCham in China