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NEW DELHI : Online marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart are gearing up for this year’s festival sales beginning 23 September, with the former running its flagship Big Billion Days till 30 September, while its rival runs the Great Indian Festival for up to a month.

Walmart-backed Flipkart has signed up Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt and M.S. Dhoni for its sales campaigns, while Amazon slashed selling fee for new sellers on its platform by 50% earlier this week.

Estimates by consulting firm RedSeer suggested that overall online sales during the 2022 festival season are likely to grow by 28% year-on-year to touch $11.8 billion. It also expects a significant jump in the number of online shoppers.

Retailers said post-pandemic normalcy could aid demand. This is the first Diwali in three years where the sentiment is very upbeat. “A lot of our sellers faced challenges because of shutdowns, and most of our sellers do business offline and online. I think all of this is behind us. So, in some sense, we are back to a normal festive period," said Manish Tiwary, country manager, India consumer business, Amazon India. This Diwali promises to be bigger and better than the last one, Tiwary said in a virtual interview.

E-commerce firms are pulling out all stops to leverage the prolonged festival period when shoppers from across India upgrade home appliances, buy new clothes and gift items.

Companies are also prepping back-ends by stepping up temporary hiring, expanding capacities at fulfilment centres, on-boarding new brands and strengthening their assortments. Earlier this month, Amazon announced the launch of its largest sortation centre in Gujarat. Flipkart, on the other hand, is ramping up capacity at its largest fulfilment centre at Haringhata, on the outskirts of Kolkata recently.

Amazon said the Great Indian Festival sales will include over 2,000 new product launches and selections from brands such as Samsung, iQOO, Mi, Redmi, OnePlus, Apple, LG, Sony, Colgate, BoAt, HP, Lenovo, Fire-Boltt, Noise, TCL, Allen Solly, Acer, Biba, Max, Puma and Adidas. The e-marketplace will work with over 150 influencers to generate 600 live streams

Meanwhile, Flipkart will offer 130 Big Billion Day specials, designed by over 90 brands across fashion, electronics, mobile phones, large appliances, personal care, and handicrafts. However, steep inflation could force Indian households to turn cautious on discretionary spends. “While the inflationary pinch to the consumer’s wallet could be a damper, the festive season promises strong results for the players driven by an increase in spending across categories as normalcy is restored post-pandemic," said Angshuman Bhattacharya, partner and national leader, consumer product and retail sector, EY India.

Flipkart and Amazon have asked sellers to ramp up stock keeping units (SKUs) despite sluggish online sales over the past two months, said a founder of a gadgets firm which retails its products on both platforms, seeking anonymity.

Ahead of the festive season, Flipkart has introduced a 50 charge for customers who have a history of returning products, the seller added.

E-commerce growth slowed due to the high base of last year, revenge shopping in offline channels, and inflationary pressures, said Anand Ramanathan, partner, Deloitte India. Slowdown is pronounced in categories such as smartphones, daily necessities, and personal care, which are facing higher volume pressures. However, several brands could still expect sales to go up by 30% to 40%, Ramanathan said.

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