eTail Europe 2021

London, UK

Whittard of Chelsea is Back , Mostly Thanks to Chinese Singles Day

It seems every five minutes we hear about some special new day to add to our calendars. Whether it's Send a Card to a Friend Day or Fish and Chip Friday, almost every day of the year now has some cause or special significance attached to it.

However, while most of these days come and go with little attention or fanfare - aside from maybe a tiny side-note in the daily newspapers - one has risen to offer a great ecommerce opportunity to UK brands such as prestigious tea seller, Whittard of Chelsea - Chinese Singles Day.

Chinese Singles Day

Chinese Singles Day was first established in 2009 but has only just started to achieve prominence, especially on this side of the world.

Conceived as an antithesis to Valentine's Day, Chinese Singles Day is a special day on which single people are invited to celebrate their freedom and all the positive elements of not being in a relationship. With societal pressure and the media constantly feeding the idea that if you're not in a relationship, your life is in some way incomplete, Chinese Singles Day is a fantastic way for singletons to push back and say that being on your own is great as well.

Chinese Singles Day falls on the 11th of November (11/11) with all the ones symbolizing singledom.


You may be wondering what all this has to do with ecommerce, but Chinese Singles Day has grown from being a tongue in cheek anti-Valentine's celebration to a massive shopping day akin to Black Friday in the west. Single people are encouraged to treat themselves to the gifts they missed out on from Valentine's Day.

During 2018's Chinese Singles Day, shoppers in China racked up a staggering $30.8 billion in retail sales - a 27 percent rise on the previous year. The day has now eclipsed Cyber Monday in the US in terms of sales and now has Black Friday firmly in its sights.

"In the first year consumers spent 50m yuan (around PS5m) and 27 merchants offered discounts," reports the Telegraph. "By 2011 - which was dubbed the Singles Day of the Century because it was 11/11/11 - more than PS500m was spent across Alibaba's platform during the day. When sales almost quadrupled the following year, Alibaba trademarked Singles Day. Some of the featured sales center around singledom, such as boyfriend pillows and single travel tickets, but the day has now widened to an all-inclusive shopping holiday."

However, Chinese Singles Day also represents a great opportunity for western ecommerce brands. Many Chinese consumers have a fondness for western - in particular English - brands and are willing to spend to get their hands on them.

This means UK companies operating in the international ecommerce space would do well to actively promote their brand to a Chinese audience. Social media campaigns, content, and other digital marketing methods can all be employed to help reach customers in the world's second-largest economy - with many forecasters predicting it to eclipse the US in the coming years.

Whittard of Chelsea

"Reported engagement and sales, speak for themselves," said Angela Southall of the marketing firm, Mention-Me. "Last year, Top Shop's online revenue spiked by a staggering 900% on Singles' Day. And Sainsbury's supermarkets led the way in experimenting with online engagement techniques, using a virtual reality promotion tool on Alibaba, culminating in a bewilderingly popular 90-minute, 360-degree live broadcast of its supermarkets in London."

Perhaps most impressive of all was the news that UK tea seller, Whittard of Chelsea reported selling more tea in the 24-hour Chinese Singles Day period than their best-performing UK high street location would expect to over a fortnight. This massive boost in sales has helped the much loved, but struggling, brand return to profit for the first time since 2017.

Whittard of Chelsea has recently started selling its products on Alibaba's Tmall platform which gives it a line into the Chinese market. With China's consumer possessing a real thirst for quintessentially English products - such as tea - other brands could take Whittard of Chelsea's lead and look to Eastern ecommerce platforms as a way of marketing their offerings in the region.

Final Thoughts

"The strategy to sell more overseas is paying off, while same-store sales in Britain are up by 10.3% despite a challenging retail environment," said Whittard of Chelsea Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunhill. "Our brand repositioning strategy is beginning to deliver a robust and sustainable improvement in financial performance."

You can hear Whittard of Chelsea's Chief Executive Officer, Mark Dunhill speak at eTail Europe 2019, being held in June, at the QEII Centre, Westminster, London.

Please download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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