'Double 11,' was started in the 1990s as a way to embrace bachelorhood. Now it's the world's biggest online shopping event.

Today, China's singles celebrated "Double 11," an anti-holiday started in the 1990s as a university student embrace of bachelorhood, which was craftily transformed in 2009 into the world’s biggest online shopping event.

By 8:42 a.m., online sales had surpassed "Cyber Monday," the U.S.'s Monday-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy that reached $1.5 billion last year. By noon in China, "Double 11″ sales had hit 17.5 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) and by 1 p.m. they had matched last year's record of $3.1 billion, according to Alibaba, which dominates online retail in China. At 9:20 p.m. in China they hit $4.9 billion, and by 11 p.m. they had reached $5.4 billion, well over predictions of $5 billion for the entire day.
 
The sales tick-tock was gleefully broadcast by Alibaba, which may go public next year, on Twitter, LinkedIn and China's SinaWeibo, as well as closely covered by dozens of journalists in a press room in Hangzhou, the company’s headquarters.
 
As sales grew, Alibaba became a trove of somewhat puzzling statistics: Within the first hour, enough brassieres were sold to "form a pile taller, and arguably more alluring, than three Mt. Everest" (presumably stacked one on top of the other); the two million pieces of underwear sold in the first hour would stretch for 1,864 miles "if laid end to end."
 
The percentage of single people of "marriageable age" has risen sharply in China in recent years, and while bra sales were high, the number of singles is disproportionately skewed towards men, thanks to the a historical preference for male babies. Today’s shopping holiday is also called "Guanggun Jie," or bare branches, a term for the estimated 50 to 60 million unmarried "excess men" in China who may never find mates.
 
Maybe it’s not surprising that the best-selling items were those that guaranteed they’d be a little less lonely.
 
By midday in China on Double 11, fast-growing phone manufacturer Xiaomi’s online store was the top-selling retailer, Alibaba said, and the top four products sold were all made by Xiaomi. In just the opening three minutes of the Nov. 11 sale, Xiaomi sold 110,000 of its new Mi 3 phones and another 330,000 of its Hongmi phone, for a transaction value of about 178 million yuan ($2.9 million).
 
This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Price Black Voters Paid to Defeat Roy Moore

    Black voters endured waves of voter suppression to help elect Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate, and it didn’t have to be that way.

  2. A maglev train on a test track outside Tokyo. A scheme to build a line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been in the works for years.
    Transportation

    The Battle of the Supertrains

    Promoters are touting two different multi-billion-dollar high-speed projects between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Is it a fantasy, or a game changer?

  3. Downtown Roanoke is pictured.
    Life

    The Small Appalachian City That’s Thriving

    Roanoke, Virginia, has become what many cities of its size, geography, and history want to be. It started by bringing housing to a deserted downtown.

  4. Equity

    Is the Rental Housing Explosion Over?

    For the first time since 2005, growth in new rental housing slowed down. Are there really enough apartments to meet demand?

  5. Equity

    Where the GOP Tax Bill Stands

    There’s good news for grad students, at least.