I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, when it comes to celebrating appreciation for what you have vs. discounts for MORE things you should have, the latter seems to win most of the time. That may seem cynical, but I can’t imagine how else Black Friday has become the phenomenon that it is in the United States.
Not that Black Friday will have the same power in China. The Chinese already have their own discounted-shopping holiday, Singles Day, which occurred earlier this month (November 11 — 11/11 = singles. Get it?) According to news reports, Chinese shoppers spent $1 billion in the first 8 minutes of Singles Day, which is driven by the mega online shopping platform Alibaba.
Singles Day has been marketed as an “anti-Valentines Day,” allowing poor, sad singletons to treat themselves to discounted goods in order to fill the hole of bleak loneliness inside of them (or so, I imagine). Alibaba certainly isn’t trying to pretend the holiday is driven by anything else — this year, the company’s Chief Executive Daniel Zhang reportedly said “the whole world will witness the power of Chinese consumption” on Singles’ Day.
Chinese consumers spent more than $14 billion dollars on November 11. It’s difficult to find comparable numbers for Black Friday in the United States, since the numbers are usually released as “Black Friday weekend” figures. And of course, Black Friday sales are both in-store and online.
The most direct comparison to Singles Day is probably Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day in the US. The difference there is stark — last year, American shoppers spent about $1.35 billion on Cyber Monday (November 30), about as much as Chinese shoppers spent in the first 10-15 minutes of Singles Day.