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Black Friday Beckons Chinese Shoppers With Deals And Nostalgia For 'Singles Day'02:47
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Xiwen Zheng browses fashion discounts between classes at Boston University's Center for English Language & Orientation Programs. (Callum Borchers/WBUR)
Xiwen Zheng browses fashion discounts between classes at Boston University's Center for English Language & Orientation Programs. (Callum Borchers/WBUR)

Black Friday is the high holiday of American shopping, and in China there's a rough equivalent called Singles Day. It started as a day of discounts aimed at single adults and has grown into a buying bonanza that falls annually on Nov. 11.

At Chinese malls on Singles Day, there are "lines at the door for the special discounts," said Sharon Xu, who works at the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, helping to market the area to Chinese tourists.

In other words, Singles Day is a lot like Black Friday, and shoppers and retailers alike are making the most of the similarities.

Shoppers in Beijing looked at Singles Day promotions earlier this month. (Ng Han Guan/AP)
Shoppers in Beijing looked at Singles Day promotions earlier this month. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Strolling past beckoning storefronts at Copley Place on a recent afternoon, Xu explained how some companies and their salespeople are courting Chinese consumers.

"A lot of retailers, I've seen them train their sales [employees] to use WeChat," a popular social network in China, Xu said.

Xu said that she has helped lead training sessions in this mall, teaching store sales teams how to use WeChat to promote products and discounts to Chinese shoppers.

And the overtures don't stop there.

"We've been catering to the Chinese shoppers for many, many years," said Chip Harding, senior vice president of business development at the Simon Property Group, which owns Copley Place and about 200 other U.S. shopping centers.

He said some stores now accept the leading Chinese credit card, and Simon works with tour companies to bus Chinese visitors to its properties, such as the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets.

"We work hand in hand with them, in terms of the greeting of their guests when they arrive," Harding said. "So, that is a very big part of what we do, day in and day out, to make their shopping experience a great one."

In this 2010 photo, holiday shoppers walk around the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
In this 2010 photo, holiday shoppers walk around the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

Chinese consumers like Xiwen Zheng seem to appreciate these efforts. A student enrolled in college preparatory classes at Boston University, Zheng went to the Wrentham outlets last Black Friday.

"I saw a lot of Chinese people there on that day," said Zheng, who is from Beijing. "I felt like it is a good strategy for the business sale."

Black Friday appeals to Chinese shoppers on two levels: It offers the chance to score a great deal, and it's a taste of home for anyone who couldn't experience all the fun of Singles Day.

This year, Zheng is trying to enjoy both days. She took advantage of some online deals on Singles Day, and she's ready to hit American stores on Black Friday.

"I feel like the price is cheap, and it looks good," she said. "For me, I just love to shop."

This segment aired on November 29, 2019.

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Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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