Scenes From China's Hectic Singles Shopping Day

As billions of dollars of product moved through the market, singles marketed themselves online and attended events across the country.
A man arrives at a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A Chinese holiday to celebrate being single has turned into one of the world’s largest online shopping events. Today, millions of unattached Chinese took advantage of online shopping specials tailored for them—travel deals for lone travelers, single-serving rice cookers, boyfriend pillows, and deals on BMWs (helpful for shedding one’s single status). The holiday reflects the growing spending power of young Chinese professionals who are increasingly marrying later or not at all. As we reported, sales passed that of America’s after-Thanksgiving day of shopping deals, Cyber Monday, and reached $5.4 billion by 11pm, according to e-commerce giant Alibaba.

But the day, always on 11/11—the single digits symbolize the “bare branches” of being an unwed Chinese—also reflects a real demographic challenge facing the country. There are between 50 to 60 million bachelors in China who may never find a life partner because of China’s large gender imbalance. As China’s population becomes disproportionately elderly and the work force shrinks, fertility rates are falling.

The holiday was characterized by e-commerce shops and shipping services scrambling to fulfill thousands of orders. Eligible Chinese, as well as their concerned relatives, attended matchmaking events or participated in online campaigns like “Help your roommate find someone,” in which over 200,000 posted photos of themselves or their single roommates.

A man at a matchmaking event in Shanghai. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP) 
Employees sort packages for China Post in Wuhan, Hubei province. Logistics are often difficult during and on the days leading up to Single’s Day. Shipments are often delayed because of the crush of orders. (Darley Shen/Reuters)
Men on the sidelines of a mass matchmaking event in Shanghai. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP) 
A university student in Xian posts this photo of her roommate, telling prospective suitors not to let this opportunity pass them by. (Sina Weibo)
A Sina Weibo user posts a photo of his eligible classmate at Hubei University as part of an online campaign to find a match for one’s roommate. (Sina Weibo)
A blogger from Nanjing posts a photo of his single friend as part of the “Find your roommate someone” campaign. (Sina Weibo)
A woman advertises for her single relative, a young entrepreneurial fashion designer. (AP) 
Women at a single’s event in Shanghai. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP) 
Delivery men sort through goods at a distribution center in Beijing. According to Chinese media, companies hired airplanes to handle the extra orders and one delivery man died from exhaustion. (Ng Han Guan/AP)
Women post ads for the single bachelors of their family in Shanghai, ahead of Singles Day. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP) 
Alibaba’s sales topped 35 billion yuan on the day. Top selling items, according to the e-commerce giant, were smartphones made by Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, electronics by Haeir, and furniture by Chinese firm Lovo. (Alibaba)

This post originally appeared at Quartz.

Lily Kuo is a reporter at Quartz covering emerging markets.

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