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Alibaba and JD.com kick off this year's June 18 festival amid company reshuffles and stronger consumer spending

China's major e-commerce platforms have all kicked off campaigns for the June 18 online shopping festival, the second-biggest such event in the country after Singles' Day in November, with some firms in the middle of corporate reshuffles amid fierce competition in the sector as China's economy recovers.

Alibaba Group Holding's Taobao & Tmall Group started its first checkout window at 8pm on Wednesday, with hefty discounts in line with previous years. Some merchants participating in Tmall's sales campaign are offering consumers 50 yuan (US$7) discounts on each 300 yuan spent in deals that qualify. Alibaba owns the Post.

Within an hour of the commencement of sales, beauty brands such as L'Oreal, Proya, Lancome and Estee Lauder broke through the 100 million yuan barrier, according to Taobao & Tmall Group. Within 4 hours of launch, Chanel saw its sales increase by more than 70 per cent, and Dior sales rose more than 50 per cent, compared with the same period last year.

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Among luxury brands, Burberry, Chole and Miumiu saw their sales exceed last year's full first day amount in the first 30 minutes, according to Taobao & Tmall Group.

Meanwhile, over at rival player JD.com, which also kicked off its event at 8pm on Wednesday, brands such as Midea, Haier, Xiaomi, Gree and Apple, all broke the 100 million yuan sales barrier, according to the Beijing-based firm. The number of brands breaking this milestone in the first 10 minutes increased by 23 per cent year-on-year, according to a post published by JD.com on its official WeChat account.

The 10-minute turnover for some new merchants on JD exceeded their daily averages in May, and the turnover of nearly 50 per cent of small and medium-sized merchants increased by more than 200 per cent, according to the e-commerce company.

Both JD and Alibaba are in the midst of corporate reshuffles. Earlier in May, JD said Xu Lei was retiring as CEO for personal reasons and being replaced by former CFO Xu Ran. The move came after founder Richard Liu Qiangdong reasserted control in December 2022, after reprimanding executives for poor performance and strategic mistakes amid slowing growth in China's e-commerce sector. Meanwhile Alibaba is in the midst of a group-wide restructuring that will see it split into six independently run entities.

Pinduoduo, the Chinese e-commerce platform owned by Nasdaq-listed PDD Holdings, also kicked off its campaign this week, offering a total of 5 billion yuan in coupons on the top of its "10 billion subsidy programme", according to local media reports.

This year also marks the first time that two female CEOs will face off in the battle for sales, with Alibaba's Trudy Dai, who leads the Taobao & Tmall Group, taking on JD's Xu Ran.

Taobao & Tmall Group is the only unit over which Alibaba will maintain exclusive ownership after its restructuring announced earlier this year. During the March quarter, sales at Alibaba's China e-commerce segment, which accounts for 65 per cent of the group's total revenue, fell 3 per cent year on year to 136.1 billion yuan.

Despite a "mid-single-digit" year-on-year decline in gross merchandise value (GMV) on Taobao and Tmall during the latest quarter, the GMV in March alone was positive due to strong growth in the fashion and healthcare categories, according to the quarterly earnings report.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.