Black Friday: How US retail stacks up against China’s Singles’ Day

World Today

Customers shop at a Kohl’s store in Colma, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Black Friday once again kicked off the start of the holiday shopping season. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It’s a familiar scene in the United States: Shoppers crowding stores the day after Thanksgiving to snag deals.

There’s big money involved in what’s come to be known as Black Friday – and a lot of it is now happening online.

CGTN’s Gerald Tan takes a look at how Black Friday came to be, the dollars behind the phenomenon and how they stack up globally.

It’s that time of year when we just can’t quite escape these signs: Holiday Sale. Doorbusters. Black Friday Specials.

In fact, the world’s two largest economies–the United States and China–naturally also have some of the biggest spenders. But how do they compare when it comes to their largest shopping events of the year?

The term Black Friday was originally coined in the U.S. city of Philadelphia in the 1950s to describe the annual shopping and traffic chaos the day after Thanksgiving. Eventually, retailers adopted it. They said it was the first day of the year they would turn a profit, the ink in their ledger books going from red to black.

Nowadays, Black Friday is a nationwide extravaganza. Last year, U.S. retailers raked in $6.2 billion in online sales on Black Friday–the highest ever. That’s not counting sales in brick-and-mortar stores, either.

And the spending binge continued, bleeding into what’s dubbed Cyber Monday. Total sales last year hit a record $7.9 billion. Still, spending for the entire weekend combined was eclipsed by China’s own shopping bonanza: Singles Day.

Celebrated on November 11th, Double Eleven, it began as an anti-Valentine’s event in the 1990s. Note the number of “ones” in the date. In 2009, tech mastermind Jack Ma adopted the day for his online portal Alibaba, and the rest is history.

Some of the figures from this year’s 24-hour event are truly staggering. Sales hit $1 billion in just over a minute. And $13 billion in the first hour. At the end of Singles’ Day, Alibaba reported a record-shattering $38.4 billion in total sales.

Over the years, retailers in other countries have begun co-opting these shopping holidays for their own, in the hopes of cashing in. And it’s a strategy that seems to be working.

When the shops have sales, the people will spend.