China Singles Day could dwarf America's Cyber Monday
November 11 marks Singles Day in China, the anti-Valentine's Day where bachelors and bachelorettes celebrate single life, which today has evolved into the biggest day for online shopping in the country akin to America's Cyber Monday.
From singles-themed products such as boyfriend body pillows to apparel and wine – online retailers are dishing out hefty discounts to lure the nation's over 240 million online consumers.
This year, online sales from the holiday are forecast to hit around $5 billion, according to China Market Research Group, 20 percent higher than 2012. This compares to $1.5 billion in sales during Cyber Monday - which falls on the first Monday after Thanksgiving Day - last year, which are expected to touch nearly $2.3 billion this year, according to Adobe.
"Singles Day has become a hugely important day for retailers. The discounting today has been the talk of consumers, from millennials to 40-year-olds. Aside from Chinese New Year, this is becoming one of the key days for retails to launch promotions," Shaun Rein, Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group, told CNBC.
"Above and beyond singles, everyone knows that it is a day of great deals. Chinese youth are getting more frustrated because of rising real estate costs so they are shifting to purchases that make themselves happy," he added.
Chinese are more excited about e-commerce as they can buy products that are not sold in brick and mortar stores near their homes, said Rein. The profile of an average online shopper is a young, middle-class consumer living in a tier-two or tier-three city, who often lack a wide variety of retail choices.
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E-commerce players such as China's biggest e-retailer Alibaba Group, which operates websites such as Tmall and Taobao, are standout winners of the online sales bonanza. Taobao specializes in consumer-to-consumer commerce similar to eBay, and Tmall links small and large businesses and brands to consumers, like Amazon Marketplace.
Alibaba, which processed $3.1 billion of transactions during Singles Day in 2012, expects sales to exceed $4.9 billion this year, according to Xinhua News Agency. The company is preparing to handle more than 100 million packages this year, up from 78 million last year, the Financial Times reported.
Logistics companies will also be beneficiaries, as will domestic banks including China Merchants Bank and credit card providers like Visa and Unionpay, said Rein.
Western brands are also tapping into the shopping frenzy. Microsoft, which launched its flagship online store on Tmall.com in March, for example, is taking part in Singles Day for the first time.
"On our website, traffic tripled in the last five days, and we're hoping to see a month's worth of sales happening in one single day," said Isaiah Cheung, vice president, Greater China at Microsoft.
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—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H