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If you're obsessed about this year’s competition between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you probably missed the real winner... Singles’ Day.

December 11, 2018    I   A. Bruce Crawley chart image.JPG

Again, in the recent holiday sales period, in an effort to make sense of how the U.S. retail industry was holding up, at the yearend 2018 checkpoint, U.S. media defaulted to their most hackneyed, tried-and-true coverages. 


They predictably filled holiday print and broadcast “news holes” with stories about year-to-year comparisons of traditional and online sales volumes, during Black Friday. Many also, then, fell back on the “old saw” about whether the recent trend toward Thanksgiving store-openings would completely cannibalize the industry’s beloved “Friday” traffic and revenues. 


Most outlets then moved to news and commentary about whether the National Retail Federation’s own 12-year-old creation, Cyber Monday, would continue to stretch its deeply discounted tentacles throughout the week, among online consumers, and whether it would eventually encompass the entire Thanksgiving-to-New Years period, thereby rendering the long-standing separate Black Friday shopping ritual obsolete.


In the week following Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday, it was difficult to avoid the usual traffic and sales reports. Retail trade associations and analysts took great pains to assure us that consumerism was still alive and well, despite their sometimes-heated “traditional vs online share” discussions, over the period. 


Indeed, we also learned that the move by the most daring retailers, a few years ago, to invade the sanctity of family Thanksgiving dinners, by opening for business on the day, itself, just to get a one-day headstart on the official Holiday shopping period, seems to have taken hold. Growing numbers of families, we’ve been informed, have now grown quite comfortable in moving from the dinner table, and from their televised football games, to go straight to the malls.


The results we’ve heard, to date, were encouraging: In 2018, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday set sales records for U.S. retailers, and Cyber Monday, based on its own performance, was being described as the “biggest holiday shopping day on the calendar.” Indeed, according to Adobe Analytics, 2018 Thanksgiving Day sales produced $3.7 billion; Black Friday hung in at $6.2 billion; and  Cyber Monday, just launched in 2005, produced an apparent, category-leading, $7.9 billion.


Before U.S. retailers rush to crown themselves “biggest” in any retail category, however, they should certainly begin to understand that holiday shopping is now a game that is played globally and, that being the case, they should begin to pay closer attention to online competition arriving from the Far East.


In doing so, for example, those that don’t already know will discover that an aggressive online retail event, initiated by Chinese bachelors in the 1990s, called Singles’ Day, actually produced $30.8 billion on November 11 (11/11, hence “Singles”) of this year. That figure nearly doubled the combined output of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined. 


Why should that matter to U.S. retailers? 


First of all, Singles’ Day is facilitated on Alibaba, China’s e-commerce platform/world’s largest retailer, with a 500 million-person reach. Also noteworthy is that the event and Alibaba have expanded their online Single’s Day reach beyond China, in recent years, into Latin America, parts of North America, Russia and Europe. Like Singles’s Day, its partner, Alibaba, despite describing itself as “much bigger than Amazon” and a “combination of Amazon, Facebook and Google,” is still little-known in the U.S., despite its overwhelming size advantage. 


As the discussions of “biggest online shopping day” continue over the coming decade, U.S. retailers, and the media outlets that cover them, will have to begin to think beyond their own national borders, as online shoppers, around the world, apparently already do.


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A. Bruce Crawley is president, CEO and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc. (M3M). Read More...

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