Here’s Everything Worth Knowing About Singles’ Day 2020

This year's "Double 11" festival of shopping brought a wave of new records and headlines about China's economic recovery post-Covid. Oh, and Katy Perry

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2:57 AM HKT, Thu November 12, 2020 3 mins read

It may seem a slightly odd thing for China to be celebrating empty consumerism this year of all years, but seemingly not even a global pandemic could derail the Singles’ Day sales train, as this year’s “Double 11” festival of shopping brought a wave of new records and headlines about the country’s economic recovery post-Covid.

If you need a refresher on what the day is all about, you can start here. Otherwise, here are all the key points you may have missed amid the flurry of crazy numbers (and yes, we’ve got plenty of those too).


Records Were Broken, Obviously

Every year 11.11 sees records smashed. Complaints that the calculations are made differently or that the figures should come with certain caveats are not hard to find, but Singles’ Day remains unable to kick its habit of boasting about new milestones.

For 2020, Alibaba announced a jaw-dropping total Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) of 372.3 billion RMB (around 56.2 billion USD) for the first 30 minutes of November 11. For context, that’s about the same size as Singapore’s GDP was in 2019.

Even though that number included the aggregated total of all the sales orders starting from November 1 (not just those from the first half hour of November 11), it’s still a whopping 103.9 billion RMB (around 15.7 billion USD) more than last year’s entire 24-hour sales.



The astonishing statistics kept flowing as the day went on, with the number of orders apparently peaking (so far) at 583,000 per second. Yes, you are reading that right, 583,000 per second.

It Wasn’t Just Alibaba Making Money

Alibaba may have been the first major company to commandeer Singles’ Day, but these days its far from the only one.

The GMV of rival shopping site reached 200 billion RMB (around 30.2 billion USD) within the first nine minutes of 11.11, while electronics retailer Suning, surpassed 5 billion RMB (around 755 million USD) in GMV in just 19 minutes.

Some rivals even held their own pre-11.11 galas. Yes, there are galas — more on those in a moment.

It Played into the Post-Pandemic Rebound Narrative

With China’s Covid-19 situation now largely under control, there’s been plenty of column inches devoted to how the country’s economy is rebounding — and whether it’s been production or consumer driven. A big day of record-breaking sales naturally helps put a positive spin on things.

Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced in October showed that China’s third quarter GDP growth increased 4.9% (up from 3.2% the previous quarter), following a contraction of 6.8% in the first quarter.

We’ll be updating this post with more details on what people have been buying as the data rolls in, but anecdotally Covid-19 appears to have influenced shoppers’ decisions.

“I spent more than 3,000RMB [around 454USD] this year on Singles’ Day mainly for clothes, shoes, household products as well as skincare,” says Charlotte Qian, a 23-year-old white-collar worker based in Shanghai. “This year’s aggressive livestreamers such as Li Jiaqi and Viya, as well as the stockpiling trend triggered by Covid-19 are the main reasons accounting for my spending. I did not participate in last year’s Double 11 at all.”

There Were Celebrities Galore

As a prelude to the shopping spree and a final sales push through star power, Alibaba and some of its rivals have taken to holding celebrity-studded Double 11 TV events on Singles’ Day Eve.

After hosting Taylor Swift last year (and pulling her in to the build-up this time around), the 2020 TMall Gala brought in Katy Perry (via video link), internationally-acclaimed pianist Lang Lang, Rap of China alum Gai and a range of little fresh meat: Jackson Yee, Lay Zhang, and Hua Chenyu.

Meanwhile, rapper Vava was one of many stars forced (well, probably well-paid) to sing about the joys of buying stuff you don’t need:

On a few other simultaneous 11.11 galas including Hunan TV’s, you could tune in to find the likes of Kris Wu, Cai Xukun, and THE9 dancing and singing around advertising.

There Were Some Ridiculous Numbers

It’s still November 11 in China as we hit publish on this, so we’ll be updating this as more stats become available, but here are some of the big numbers thus far:

    • 16 million products, 250,000 brands, 5 million online retailers and 800 million consumers participated
    • Top 5 provinces for sales: 1. Guangdong, 2. Zhejiang, 3. Jiangsu, 4. Shanghai (a city, but apparently that’s alright), 5. Shandong
    • Top 5 cities for sales: 1. Shanghai, 2. Beijing, 3. Hangzhou, 4, Shenzhen, 5. Guangzhou
    • Alibaba’s logistics ecosystem Cainiao is expecting to charter 700 flights on 11.11 to deliver goods around China; they’ll also be deploying 850,000 delivery drivers nationwide
    • Top 5 categories of imported products: food supplements, facial beauty tools, infant and toddler milk powder, skincare sets and facial masks
    • Over 700 livestreaming events
    • Luxury brands joining for the first time: Prada, Cartier, Montblanc, Piaget, Balenciaga, Vacheron Constantin, and Chloé
    • 342 brands exceeded 100 million RMB in GMV; sales of 13 brands exceeded 1 billion RMB in GMV as of 00:35am on November 11, taking into account of all the orders beginning from 00:00 on November 1
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