POV: Singles Day Vs Black Friday


November is fast becoming the sales battleground of the year. In the East we have Singles Day or Double 11 – a veritable celebration of retail innovation in China. In the West we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which despite their names have morphed into a week-long sales festival across most countries.


At time of writing we are midst Black Friday in Europe and in the US the early birds are just getting up to try and catch the best bargains. So let’s start in the East, where the results are already in.

TMall, Alibaba’s online B2C platform, saw $25.4bn in sales in the 24-hour period. That’s right, $25.4bn in one day. The number is phenomenal, but so it’s the trajectory of growth. In only five minutes sales had passed the total 2012 sales figures of $2.9bn and it took only just over half the day (13 hours, 9 minutes and 49 seconds to be precise) to pass last year’s total of $18.2bn.

TMall operates as an umbrella for brand stores and this year 167 merchants generated over 100 million RMB ($15.1 million) in sales each, with 17 merchants surpassed 500 million RMB ($75.4 million) each and six merchants surpassed 1bn RMB ($150.9 million) each. The best performing stores, in order, were: Sunning, Xiaomi, Honor, Haier, Nike, Uniqlo, Sharp, Adidas, LinShiMuYe and Midea.

Alibaba, much like eBay in the West, also handles its own payments through Alipay, leading to some incredible stats. There were 1.48bn transactions through Alipay, peaking at 256,000 orders per second. Another amazing stat is where those sales were made, with 90% coming on mobile devices.

But wait, that is just TMall. also managed a very healthy $19.2bn Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) by running multiple offers across an 11-day period in the run up to and including Double 11.

Now let’s compare that to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the West. In the UK estimates for Black Friday sales are around £10bn ($13.3bn) across the entire ‘festival’. In the US, consumers have managed to spend $1.52bn between turkey and bed on Thanksgiving, before the official day begins in earnest. The National Retail Federation is projecting that sales for November and December will rise 3.6% to 4% this year in the US, versus a 4% increase last year. Non-store sales, which include online sales and those from kiosks, are expected to rise 11-15% to about $140 billion for the period.


Alibaba plans to add 1.5 billion customers around the world above and beyond its existing 400 million shoppers in China. This year’s Singles Day has already seen a 60% growth from overseas sales. Which leads to a key question: will Singles Day begin to challenge Black Friday’s primacy on the retail calendar? Can Amazon, Wall-Mart and other big Western retailers rise to Alibaba’s challenge?

Further Reading:

CNBC / BBC / The Verge