This year's "Singles Day" shopping spee, which happens annually in China on Nov 11, is expected to generate record levels of online spending, according to the latest market predictions.
Of the 1,000 people polled by research consultancy Nielsen, more than 80 per cent said they had serious shopping plans for the day, which this year falls on next Tuesday.
Just 17 per cent of those surveyed said they are first-time participants in the retail phenomenon, and a mere single per cent, maybe appropriately, of the online shoppers who joined last year's Singles Day, said they won't be buying anything this year.
The idea of Singles Day was first dreamed up by the recently floated e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd five years ago to encourage people without partners to comfort themselves with some retail therapy.
The company's two major online marketplaces, Tmall and Taobao, are expected to remain the most popular shopping sites again this year, according to 70 per cent of those surveyed by Nielson, who this year are on average expecting to spend 1,440 yuan (S$330). Just over half of those polled (57 per cent) said they planned to spend more than last year.
Wan Lijie, 29, a sales manager with a multinational furniture company based in Shanghai, told China Daily it will be the first time she has taken part in the annual shopping splurge.
She is determined to stick, she insisted, to a sensible budget of 1,000 yuan, made up mainly of daily essentials such as toothpaste, tissue and laundry detergent－but she readily admitted she may weaken as the day goes on and splash out on more extravagant items such as expensive cosmetics, which could send her final bill spiraling.
Liu Xiaobin, vice-president of Nielsen China, said as many as 83 per cent of the respondents planned to hold back on any wild spending until Nov 11, to make the most of what are expected to be bargains galore, during a day that has taken on something of a carnival atmosphere in China.
Clothing and accessories, cosmetics and personal care, household products, home electrical appliances, and food and beverages are listed as the five most popular target categories.
"Thanks to a high penetration of the Internet and the continuous development of China's online retail market, we are going to see more and more Chinese consumers viewing these kinds of online shopping festivals as occasions to have fun, a chance to treat themselves, and an opportunity to take advantage of the promotions being offered," said Liu.
Other shopping sites are already catching up rapidly on Alibaba's two online giants.
The average growth rate for planned purchases on other major shopping sites, including JD.com, Amazon.com, and Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd, showed a 79 per cent year-on-year increase, the survey said.
"As China sees more online retailers venturing into the e-commerce field, they will need to develop a deeper understanding of today's online shoppers, in terms of how they decide on their 'store-of-choice'-that will be the key for online retailers to stand out from the competition and win customers," said Liu.
According to iResearch, the market research company focused on China's Internet industry, the country's online shopping market was worth 1.85 trillion yuan at the end of last year, up from less than 250 billion yuan at the end of 2009.
During the same period, the country's total retail spending increased around 1.8 times.
On Nov 11 last year, Alibaba recorded daily sales of 35 billion yuan, which are expected to reach 50 billion yuan this year.