At a time when most of the world is groping for hope in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and national economies are at record low levels with few expectations for recovery anytime soon, China held its annual “Single’s Day” shopping spree last Wednesday.
This annual sale was conceived by retail giant Alibaba in 2009 to offer low prices to China’s millions, with huge discounts on such items as beauty products and electronics, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year — thus the name “Singles Day.” It has now become a month-long affair with other retailers, such as ID.com and Pinduoduo, and China’s entire retail sector joining the consumer holiday.
“Singles Day” is China’s version of the United States’ “Black Friday” annual sale after Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans rush to stores all over the US to do their early Christmas shopping, with toys, dolls, and laptops recording the biggest sales last year.
On this day, American retail giants Amazon, Home Depot, L Brands, Walmart, Best Buy Co., Macy’s, lead a day of low-price sales. Over the years, the original one-day sale expanded to the entire month of November, so it became a less violent experience than the days when stampeding shoppers rushed into stores as soon as they opened, to snap up limited-quantity merchandise at huge price discounts.
In China’s “Singles Day” last Wednesday, Alibaba reported sales of 372.3 billion yuan — $56 billion — since it began its annual sale in November. This was reported as bigger than the Gross Domestic Product of Iceland, Lebanon, and Georgia combined. The total sales in the consumer marathon came to reach over $100 billion. That would be about P5 trillion in Philippine currency.
China was where the COVID-19 virus first emerged in December, 2019, and the government imposed restrictions that shut down entire provinces with millions of people for months at a time. It has become the first country to recover from it.
Most of the rest of the world — the United States, Europe, India, Russia, Brazil, Iran — continue to struggle with the virus today. But they are also planning for the economic recovery they will launch, hopefully in 2021, after the medical problem is solved.
This will be a long and difficult process for many nations which suffered the loss of so much economic production because of the pandemic. China’s experience — highlighted by last Wednesday’s “Singles Day” billion-dollar sales supported by its people — should help lift the hopes of those nations still living in the shadow of COVID-19.