Alibaba says this year’s Singles’ Day was the largest in its history as it processed £9.4bn across the day, but which British retailers cashed in?

The popularity of Singles’ Day, a Chinese red-letter day that celebrates single people, is exploding exponentially in China and some savvy British companies are cashing in on the phenomenon.

The tradition was begun by four male students at a Chinese university in the 1990s to celebrate their single status and the day, which falls on November 11 each year, eventually gave birth to a tradition of self-gifting.

Alibaba jumped on the back of this trend and even trademarked the term 11.11, turning it into China’s version of Black Friday in the process.

British retailers who are exploiting the occasion include Topshop, Marks & Spencer, and the Cambridge Satchel Company, which has recorded its best ever day of sales on the back of it.

However, it appears that holiday is not for everyone. House of Fraser did not take part despite now having a Chinese owner and being on the verge of launching stores in the country.

Despite the importance of the Chinese market to Burberry, the luxury fashion retailer also held back from the occasion to protect the image of its products. “We did not participate in Singles’ Day,” says Burberry chief financial officer Carol Fairweather. “It is a discount mechanism and not something we feel the need to participate in.”

However, based on the strong sales other British retailers have experienced at this year’s Singles’ Day, it will only be a matter of time before more of their peers pile in.

Cambridge Satchel Company

With a promotion running on the Alibaba-owned TMall, as well as its global website, The Cambridge Satchel Company took in over £590,000, beating its previous best day of sales by over 140%.

It achieved over RMB5.5m (£570,000) of sales on TMall on Singles’ Day, coming from over 7,000 customers.

The Cambridge Satchel Company claims it was the best performing global fashion bag brand on TMall during a pre-sale period. The company’s pre-sale offer on TMall included a 50% discount on exclusive styles and selected bags between October 13 and November 10.

Marks & Spencer

M&S had its best ever day on Tmall with Singles’ Day sales increasing 80% on last year. Its top sellers included Cashmilon jumpers, macs and cashmere jumpers.

The retailer launched on Tmall in 2012, selling clothing products across womenswear, menswear, lingerie and kidswear and a limited ambient food and wine offer.

In January 2015 M&S launched a dedicated kidswear shop on Tmall and each week it has over 400,000 customers visit its Tmall site.

Holland & Barrett

Health food retailer Holland & Barrett now has 34 stores in China and took part in the Singles’ Day promotion with Alibaba and TMall global for the first time this year.

As part of the promotion, 13 vitamin and supplement products were sold at 70% off, generating nearly £500,000 of revenue in the day.

Holland & Barrett also live-streamed translated video content from UK stores into a Chinese store using Skype in the days leading up to Singles’ Day.


The fashion retailer offered 20% off when purchasing 3 pieces, 30% off when purchasing 5 pieces and 40% off when purchasing 8 pieces. It also offered some lines at 50% off.

Topshop has not yet released an indication of how sales performed.