With as many singles as the entire populations of Russia and the UK combined, Chinese leisure businesses have their sights set on the 200 million Chinese single adults with disposable income and willingness to spend, according to Financial Times.
Fashion, entertainment, food, and travel businesses are targeting singles, especially with regards to luxury items, which are popular among single urbanites since they can afford them and like the idea of giving oneself a treat.
Haidilao’s single service has helped it become the most popular hotpot chain in China. Traditional hotpot is typically a Chinese dish shared by a group of people but has been adapted for single guests. For example, companion toys, such as large teddy bears or stuffed chickens, are provided, and guests waiting for a table can get their nails done or receive a shoulder massage at no extra charge. A waitress at one of Haidilao’s outlets in Shanghai said this helps people feel less lonely.
(File photo shows the large stuffed bear provided by Haidilao)
Alibaba has been taking advantage of this group since 2009 with the launch of its “Singles’ Day” promotions every November 11. Today it is one of the world’s largest online shopping events. In 2016, the e-commerce giant achieved $17.8 billion worth of gross merchandise volume.
Food delivery services saw 44 percent sales growth in China thanks to the surging single economy, according to management consulting firm Bain & Company. Meituan, China’s largest food delivery service, said 65 percent of its orders came from unmarried customers, with fast food the most popular order for single consumers.
(File photo shows the Meituan's motorcycles to delivery take-out foods)
“Singles are the most important group of customers for us,” said Wang Puzhong, general manager of Meituan. “Chinese food is quite complicated and takes a long time to cook, so singles think it’s a waste of time compared to ordering takeout.”
The trend has also been observed in other Asian countries. Japanese chain Muji has designed smaller rice cookers, ovens, and kettles for singles. Nearly a quarter of Japanese men age 50 or older are unmarried, according to a nationwide census. Special seats with partition boards are common in Japanese restaurants so single eaters can enjoy their meal alone.
“The single economy is accompanied by a profound change in people’s perceptions of remaining single that the concept is no longer stigmatized,” Boston Consulting Group said in a recent report. Singles “dine, travel, and pursue activities by themselves.”
Chen Nie, a single 23-year-old in Shanghai, experienced a gamut of emotions when offered a teddy bear at Haidilao. “I was shocked at first. Then I felt warm,” she said. “But in the end I felt awkward because it reminded me of the fact that I’m single.”