Will you tell someone you love them this August 14? In China, the date is celebrated much like Valentine’s Day is in the West – it’s perfect for making professions of love. These aren’t only verbal expressions, mind you, but take the form of jewelry, high fashion, and luxurious beauty products. The occasion has thus become a major shopping festival called Qixi Festival – Qixi meaning “double seventh,” held on the seventh day of the seventh Chinese lunar month.
The Myth Behind the Festival
The connection between the day and the theme of love is rooted in ancient astrological myth and is a tale of two forbidden lovers. As the story goes, a kind-hearted young cattleman named Niu Lang was asked by a mysterious old man to attend to his sick cow in heaven. After Niu Lang cured the cow, the old man thanked Niu Lang by introducing him to Zhi Nu, a weaver girl from heaven, and they fell madly in love. The Empress of heaven was so furious that a heavenly weaver had married a lowly human being that she separated them by a giant river in the sky for all of eternity. But, when the Empress saw how devastated the couple was, she decided to let them to meet for one day every year – on the seventh day of the seventh month.
Chinese Valentine’s Day
Although it’s a bittersweet story, Chinese millennials see the occasion as an opportunity to profess their love for that special someone. And as the day grows in significance, global brands and local businesses alike have jumped on the thematic bandwagon, showcasing products through campaigns targeted specially for the holiday. It is now a major retail event, with sales increasing by 120% for some brands as a result of Qixi tie-ins.
It’s a particularly great event for clothing, jewelry and cosmetics, and marketing campaigns for brand new beauty lines, high fashion pieces and statement accessories focus on romantic themes or heart-filled designs. Luxury brands run special Qixi campaigns or release limited edition products. Recent participants include Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Gucci, Dior, Prada, Michael Kors and Burberry. Bvlgari, Tiffany and Nike even launched special Qixi lines endorsed by top Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and celebrities. Qixi promotions generate enormous social media activity, with views and engagements in the millions. Some campaigns spawn their own hashtags and controversies have extended brand buzz even further.
While the notion of “double seventh” is important to the festival overall, Qixi sales aren’t limited to a single calendar day. Data from major eCommerce platforms show that online sales of Qixi-related gifts start to soar weeks before the Qixi celebration even begins. For instance, Qixi gift sales through Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s two major eCommerce platforms, peaked a week before the festival. And, with an increase of 118% over the previous year, it’s clear the festival is gaining traction year after year.
Big Sales for Traditional Products
The most popular items were domestically produced, with sales of traditional Han clothing jumping by a whopping 184%. Sales of Chinese rouge, an ancient-style blush, rose by 37% over the previous year. Qixi Festival also drove customers to consume more Chinese cuisine. Online food delivery platform Meituan reported that 7% more Chinese cuisine was consumed on Qixi in 2018 than on Western Valentine’s Day that same year. Other favorite purchases made by couples celebrating Qixi included visits to amusement parks, overseas holiday tours, visits to exclusive high-end restaurants, portraits and flowers.
Judging by the involvement of more brands and influencers and the steep rise in sales, Qixi Festival is growing in popularity. Inspired by the modern celebration of this ancient folk tale, Chinese consumers are increasingly captivated by Qixi-related products and respond to creative marketing campaigns around the event. Based on the successes of major international and local brands during Qixi Festival, businesses of all kinds should start focusing on this Chinese holiday to reach more customers.