11/11: The Chinese Origins of the World’s Biggest Shopping Day

Are you ready to shop ‘til you drop?

If you’re a savvy online shopper, then surely you know what 11.11 means! Here in the Philippines, it means endless discounts, vouchers, and deals on our favorite shopping apps. But have you ever wondered why it’s this date when brands choose to flaunt their promos?

11.11, also known as Singles’ Day, has historically made global waves for being the biggest sales event of the year. In 2020 alone, it brought in a staggering USD 78 billion over an online shopping spree that spanned eleven days in China, with over 250,000 brands from all over the world. In comparison, the US equivalent of the shopping event — a five-day weekend that starts from Thanksgiving and ends on Cyber Monday — brought in together a total of USD 25 billion in the same year. 

In light of such jaw-dropping numbers, it’s no wonder that 11.11 has made its way to the Philippines, with Southeast Asian platforms Lazada and Shopee leading the shopping spree. But, of course, the success of this global phenomenon didn’t start from nowhere. 

Here is where it all began. 


Singlehood: The origins of 11.11

We bet you’re wondering: Why is 11.11 called Singles’ Day anyway? 

As it turns out, the name was coined by Chinese university students who decided to name November 11 (11.11) Singles’ Day or 双11 (Double 11) as a celebration of their singlehood because the date is denoted entirely by the number one. 

During the 1990s, to celebrate their status as free people not shackled by relationships, romance, and society — a counterpoint to strong parental expectations of marriage — single individuals would indulge themselves in all-out retail therapy. The popular idea then was that if you don’t need to spend on a partner, why not spend on yourself? 

In 2009, the now giant e-commerce group Alibaba took notice of the trend and seized the opportunity to commercialize the date, envisioning 11.11 as a major shopping holiday. During that first year, the company invited 25 merchants and offered customers up to 50% discount rates, earning USD 7 million in one day. 

Since then, the numbers have only gone up, developing 11.11 to what it is today. 


Celebrations galore: 11.11 at its peak

Since its inception, 11.11 sales have only increased year on year. During the first hour of this year’s opening day (November 1), more than 2,600 brands have exceeded their turnover of the entire day in 2020. Revenues are going up, but when it comes to 11.11, that’s practically a given. 

In addition to discount rains and product livestreams, what makes 11.11 such an exciting event is its plethora of galas, which showcase the biggest names of China’s entertainment industry. The most special one to take note of is TMall’s Double 11 Carnival Night, which is held on the evening of November 10, preceding the biggest shopping day of the year. 



This year, the event includes performances by popular Chinese celebrities such as Henry, Mao Buyi, Meng Ziyi, Zhou Shen, and more. It will also feature Benedict Cumberbatch, best known for his titular roles on Sherlock and Doctor Strange. Other Western celebrities who have also attended the gala in recent years include a variety of personas from performers Taylor Swift, Katy Perry to sports stars David Beckham and Kobe Bryant. 

TMall’s Double Carnival 11 Night will premiere at 7:30 PM on November 10 and will be live-streamed on YouTube


Celebrations galore, part two: Philippine edition

With the attention that 11.11 sales have also been getting here in the Philippines, Shopee and Lazada have also prepared shows that can be enjoyed by fans. 

Shopee’s 11.11 Big Christmas Sale TV Special, for instance, will spotlight exhilarating performances by the popular K-Pop boy group NCT 127. The show, which will be hosted by Willie Revillame, will also feature appearances by local celebrities Carla Abellana, Jessy Mendiola, Max Collins, Juancho Triviño, and more. 



Meanwhile, Lazada’s own offering comes in the form of its 11.11 Super Show. The mega shopping festival is headlined by yet another famous K-Pop boy group, SEVENTEEN, who serve as Lazada’s regional Happiness Ambassadors. Viewers can also expect to see local stars Bea Alonzo, Alden Richards, Maine Mendoza, and P-Pop group SB19, among others, to brighten up the stage. 



Shopee’s 11.11 Big Christmas Sale TV Special is set to air this November 11, 9:30–11:30 PM on GMA-7 and Shopee Live. 

Lazada’s 11.11 Super Show will premiere on November 10 at 9:30 PM also on GMA-7 and LazLive. 

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