top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoeri Van den Bergh

11.11 Singletons Unite - Exploring the global surge of solo living and impact on brands & society

A quiet revolution unfolds — an increasing number of individuals are opting for solitude. The surge in divorce rates, coupled with aging populations and a growing inclination to delay marriage, has given rise to an unprecedented increase in one-person households. According to Euromonitor, over 300 million people worldwide have chosen to live alone, marking an 80% increase in less than 15 years. As societal norms evolve, so does the significance of this demographic, influencing cultural celebrations like Singles' Day and prompting brands to tailor their products and services to cater to the rising tide of singletons.

With Single's Day taking placing on 11 November, this article delves into the dynamics of this solo revolution, exploring its impact on relationships, consumer behaviour, and even the tourism industry.

Alone with 300 millions

The inclining divorce rate, ageing populations and delaying marriage contribute to the fast growth of one-person households. An average of 44 percent of the marriages in Europe will get off track. According to Eurostat, this divorce percentage is even higher in Belgium, where it attains no less than 74 percent. At first sight, this is the highest percentage in Europe. However, this is mostly the result of the lower number of marriages in our country. After all, the percentage is calculated by dividing the number of divorces per 1000 inhabitants through the number of marriages. The absolute number of divorces in Scandinavia and the Baltic states is higher than in our country, but more people get married there. This means that Sweden and Norway have the highest concentration of singles with more than 4 out of 10 one-person households. In cities such as Stockholm, Paris and New York, this number attains 60 percent. Being single has basically become the rule there.

It is a trend that can be found on a worldwide basis. The number of one-person households in the United Kingdom has quadrupled in the last four decennia. Each year 163.000 singles are added to the British populace. The number of single-person households without children in the EU increased by 30.7 % from 2009 to 2022. In the United States, the group of singles amounts to 31 million people. But the phenomenon is just as striking in growth markets such as China, India and Brazil, where the population is reaching a higher life standard. According to Euromonitor, more than 300 million people live alone. This is an increase of 80 percent in less than 15 years' time.

Valentine’s hatred and happy singles

Most singles are very active and have a good network of friends with whom they meet more frequently than if they were in a relationship. Alone is not the same as lonely. According to the University of Tilburg, single men have contact with their friends 14 times a month. This figure decreases by half from the moment they go steady. So, the happy single who consciously chooses for a solo existence does exist. Merely 40 percent of single men and 20 percent of single women are actively searching for Mr or Ms Right. As the most important reason why they are single, they declare to set high standards for a potential partner and to appreciate their own independency too much.

In China a group of singles succeeded in occupying all uneven chairs in a movie theatre in Shanghai on Valentine’s Day so that couples could not sit next to each other. The number of men in this Asiatic country is dozens of millions higher than that of women. This is caused by the bigger number of abortions with female foetuses. This desperate situation gave rise to the online call by Chinese singles for a boycott of Valentine’s Day through the crushing of chocolates and the piercing of condoms.

Brands are increasingly understanding the importance of singletons and their disaffection with Valentine. Last year, Itaú Banco hosted a Valentine’s Day competition for Argentines still paying for gifts to ex-lovers. In Argentina, it is common for people to buy something and split the payment over a period of months. The bank asked Argentinians to share the story behind gifts they had bought for ex-partners and how the relationship ended on its Instagram account. The three best submissions were then subjected to a public vote, with the bank agreeing that it would clear all their present-related debts for the winner.

11.11 Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day already exists in China since 1993. It takes place on 11 November (11/11 or 4 times the number one). It was the idea of a couple of single students at the Nanjing University. They originally called it Bachelor’s Day. Singles’ Day starts off with a breakfast of four Youtiao (fried sticks of dough) that symbolize the four ones. The singles only spend the day with their friends at a shopping mall or – naturally – at a karaoke bar.

In 2009, the e-tailer and Chinese counterpart of Amazon Alibaba started a campaign for Singles’ Day. For 24 hours, the site offered high reductions that can reach up to 50 percent. Its purpose was to promote the idea to buy yourself a present. Items such as a boyfriend pillow and sweatshirts with the text: ‘I am single because I’m fat’ yielded a large amount of money, in addition to electronics and French wines, which also sold well. In the past decade stars like Taylor Swift, Nicole Kidman and Kobe Bryant made Singles’ Day festive appearances on stage. Alibaba reported $85 billion in sales for Singles’ Day in 2021 but has not released figures since and toned down on promoting the event due to a Chinese government crackdown on Chinese private technology companies. 

Other retailers like and Pinduoduo Inc also jumped at the opportunities of this holiday because of its commercial success. eBay started a page for orders from the US and China, and clothing stores ZaraMango and ASOS also discovered 11 November. Apple has offered Singles' Day promotions in the past, providing discounts and special deals on its products for Chinese consumers. Nike often runs Singles' Day promotions in China, releasing exclusive products and limited-edition sneakers for the occasion. Coca-Cola has previously launched Singles' Day campaigns with themed packaging and special deals on its beverages. Cosmetic brands like L'Oréal and Estee Lauder have created special Singles' Day beauty sets and promotions to attract Chinese consumers. 

Procter & Gamble has been known to offer discounts and deals on its various brands, such as Tide and Pampers, for Singles' Day. Hair care brand Pantene converted one of Shanghai’s most popular hair salons into ‘The Breakup Salon’, inviting newly singles to have their hair professionally cut and styled reflecting their breakup stories. Grey Hong Kong created a branded content documentary series to highlight how a new look can give you a new outlook. According to the agency, there was a 39% increase in searches for Pantene on ecommerce platform versus the same time the previous year and 67% increase on Alibaba’s Tmall while over 112 million people engaged with the campaign content.

In analogy with Black Friday, which started as an American phenomenon and turned into an international one via the United Kingdom, it is expected that Singles’ Day, spreading from China, will soon hold sway over the rest of the world.

Just a single night?

The increase of the number of singles also causes changes in the touristic offer. Already more than 15% of the summer travels in the US consists of singles. In a response to this phenomenon, more and more tour operators forsake the singles’ surcharge. Hotels such as the renowned Dukes Hotel in London are now providing floors to which only women have access, including an exclusively female staff for these rooms. Since 2010 the Norwegian Cruise Line 128 has ultra-compact studios at its disposal with a lower price for solo travellers. Every client has access to the ‘living’, a private lounge in which solo travellers can mingle. Most flight companies now have apps that allow for their clients or frequent flyers to connect with each other before they have to catch their plane.

In restaurants the trend of sharing large tables with strangers, which we are familiar with from the Le Pain Quotidien, has become more frequent throughout the last years. It allows for the manager of a sector afflicted by recession to cater for more people during one shift. Yet it is also quite handy for singles who like eating out. There is nothing more uninviting than to have to dine alone at a table for two. Amsterdam presented us with the first upscale pop-up restaurant ‘Eenmaal’ (or 'Once’) – meant for single gastronomes. Their concept of offering only one-person tables has now been imitated in Antwerp, London and Berlin. Vitaminwater even thought it was an interesting initiative and now supports it with their brand.

Naturally this trend is pursued by the food packaging industry. The rise of the solo portion such as the DiGiorno One Pizza or Green Giant’s 'Just for One' canned vegetables are not only linked to a singles market. More than previous generations, Millennials prefer variation and user friendliness. This implies a meal with little preparation time and even less tidying up and cleaning time afterwards. These examples are part of the 24/7 'on the go' eating trend, which allows for smaller portions that are easier to take ‘on the go’. Almost half of the meals in the US are consumed by a person on his own. Especially the on-the-go breakfast has now become commonplace for people across the globe.

32 views0 comments



Let’s get in touch
to give your audience
a NextGen boost.

bottom of page