By David Jinks MILT, ParcelHero

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now major days in the retail calendar. However, it’s just a couple of months until the biggest online bonanza in the world - and it’s an event most British people have never heard of: Singles Day!

Last year a stunning 278 million items were sold on Singles Day, 11 November, worth $9.3bn. That dwarfs the world’s Cyber Monday sales, which only amounted to 36.8 million sales and were worth a ‘mere’ $2.68bn.

Singles Day comes from China. It originated in Nanjing University where the large number of single males celebrated 11th November because it is all the ones: 11/11. Students continued the tradition once they had left university and it really took off in 2011: 11/11/11! It has become an excuse for an unofficial holiday, going on blind dates, and a huge shopping event in which single people buy themselves a treat.

Internet giant Alibaba saw its commercial potential and popularised the day with extensive offers. Its charismatic founder Jack Ma predicted last year: “‘I bet the number of goods sold is going to be scary”. He was right: sales last year totalled $9.3bn through Alibaba's Tmall, Taobao and AliExpress retail sites.

Could the UK also get Singles Day fever in the future? Alibaba is moving the event westwards. Tmall particularly has been setting up partnerships with global brands to manage logistics and sales from outside of China and use Tmall as largely a front-end. Consumers should watch the AliExpress site for UK bargains. For any internet retailer looking to source products for their site, significant discounts on Alibaba sites on 11/11 can’t be bad; but there are also sales opportunities. As the day grows in popularity UK buyers will start to seek out Singles Day bargains; and small retailers need to respond to this demand with Singles Day sales on their own sites or online marketplace stores such as eBay.

The day is ideally timed, by November 11 shoppers are very “Christmas conscious” and already buying presents, and it’s an opportunity for responsive retailers to steal a march on Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Retailers large and small should get single minded!