China’s Single’s Day — making and breaking the bank

Congratulations to China entrepreneur and mega-millionaire MA Yun of Alibaba, who has a new title and a new pic to go with it:

 Founder of Bankrupt Broads* Day


 The pic went viral a couple days before Nov 11 (11-11), a date which has become a world-class shopping orgy whose single-day online sales for Ma, through his Taobao and T-Mall online shopping properties, dwarfs the entire US spending on Black Friday-Cyber Monday combined.

 Yes, “his” properties, in case the Photoshopping above had led you to believe otherwise.

 11-11 in China has been Single’s Day for a couple decades now. It got started because of all the 1s, naturally. In Chinese it’s known colloquially as Guanggun Jie 光棍节, literally “Bare Stick Holiday” where Bare Stick was slang for a single man, but now seems serviceable for females too. For years it was something of a Dark Valentine’s Day on which single folks celebrated their singleness.

 But a few years ago, with Alibaba leading the way, retailers began turning Single’s Day into a different kind of celebration, a day on which to buy Stuff, at deep discounts, for that one special person: themselves.

 And buy they do.

“Anticipating 50+% discounts, consumers across the country put off their spending for an 11-11 explosion. In 2012, the day’s sales for Alibaba’s Taobao + T-Mall were ¥19 billion, or about $3.1 billion USD” said Claire from lemarchedurideau. In 2013 that jumped to ¥35 billion ($5.7B). And now 2014’s number is a jaw-dropping ¥57 billion ($9.3B).

With stories making the rounds about female shoppers gone mad (in Chinese: woman spends 2 months salary, husband so angry he sleeps in a cave), it’s not a great stretch for the WeChat wags to christen Ma with the “Bankrupt Broads” title.


*败家娘们创始人 Always tough to translate this kind of thing — feel free to contribute an idea. The “bankrupt” part is baijia 败家, which means pretty close to “bankrupt the family”. The niangmen(r) 娘们 part is a lot more open to interpretation. It’s a word for a woman that is certainly not complimentary — but neither is it an outright direct insult.

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