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Chinese Shoppers Set Record For 'Singles Day' Shopping Spree

You might not know this, but today is "singles day." That's according to China and the world's largest supplier of goods, Alibaba. Together the two have turned an obscure student holiday into the country's biggest shopping event.

In the 1990s, Chinese university students began celebrating being unattached on Nov. 11, which of course is abbreviated 11/11.

The idea was for singles to go out, go to parties, go to bars without all the Valentine's Day commercial schmaltz.

At least that's what it was. Now it's the biggest commercial holiday on the planet.

Chinese shoppers bought more than $9 billion in goods for themselves today. Alibaba began promoting the celebrations in recent years as a way for singles to treat themselves to something special, and online retailers jumped in, offering deep discounts on purchases.

To put that in perspective, that's almost three times what Americans spent last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Alibaba, which normally ships 16 million packages a day, now has 250 million packages to ship over the next three to five days, the company's Chairman Jack Ma told CNBC.

Ma says he wants the day to be a global holiday. But it could be a tough sell in the United States.

Alexander Chernev, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, says shopping days are relatively routine for Americans, compared with China's emerging middle class.

"This whole shopping experience is fairly new for the average Chinese consumer," Chernev says, "where in the United States it has existed for many decades."

Chernev says the date, Nov. 11, is also too close to Americans' already well-established shopping season and is, of course, already a holiday, Veterans Day, when lots of things go on sale.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most significant issues.

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