China's Singles Day: Alibaba Profits Off Holiday It Created

China's e-commerce giant trademarked and publicized Singles Day, a holiday for people without partners that's become a commercial hit.
Posted at 10:45 PM, Nov 10, 2014

Kind of like how card and chocolate companies turned Valentine's Day into a commercial hit, Alibaba popularized China's Singles Day and now makes tons of money off it.

Alibaba's American IPO in September was the biggest initial public offering in history. And now the Chinese e-commerce giant stands to gain even more ground thanks to a holiday it helped create.

Singles Day, on 11/11, has been part of Chinese culture for about two decades now, but it didn't really catch on until online commerce sites figured out how to make money from it. Alibaba trademarked a common Chinese name for the holiday and helped turn it into China's version of Black Friday. 

Or is Black Friday just America's version of Singles Day? Sales on the Chinese holiday on Alibaba alone are estimated to reach $8.2 billion. Sales in America between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday hit $3.6 billion last year.

All those sales in China are fueled by a simple concept: you don't have a significant other, so why not buy some cool stuff? And so far, that's worked out pretty well for the people selling.

Of course, China is a much more populous country than the U.S. Americans will still spend a good bit more per capita on Black Friday weekend.

Oddly enough, China's state-run outlets, which tend to have an opinion on just about everything, don't have much to say about Singles Day other than that it's happening.

American outlets, on the other hand, couldn't say enough about the Chinese retail boom, or about the quirky holiday that drives it.

This video includes images from Getty Images.