(Yicai Global) Jan. 19 -- JD.Com Inc. Chairman Liu Qiangdong endorsed Chinese menswear firm Heilan Home Co. ahead of a major sales campaign on his company's e-commerce platform.
Liu posted a message touting Heilan Home as a top Chinese men's brand along with a photo of himself wearing its products on Chinese news app Toutiao Jan. 17.
Heilan Home has been a long-standing partner of Tmall, an e-commerce site operated by JD.Com competitor Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and its new alliance may trigger competition between the two internet retail giants, Beijing Business Today reported.
Liu is one of the very few Chinese billionaire internet moguls who has personally endorsed a third-party brand. His support is different from that of other celebrities as it indicates a collaboration is cementing and it is a warm-up before JD.Com's Super Brand Day on Jan. 23.
JD.Com has acquired a dominant position in 12 of the 14 key e-commerce markets, but it has been lagging behind in the clothing and home improvement businesses, Liu said after releasing the firm's third quarter financial report last year.
The company has ramped up operations of apparel sales in recent years through strategic investments in London-based fashion retailer Farfetch UK Ltd. and Chinese discount retailer Vipshop Holdings Ltd., the introduction of its own luxury service brand Toplife, and partnership deals with several top global fashion companies.
Liu is popularly perceived as a successful businessman who always wears a formal suit. His backing of Heilan Home has sparked heated debates among Chinese internet users.
Many white-collar workers in major Chinese cities view Heilan Home as a as fuddy-duddy menswear brand. The firm has been focusing on third- and fourth-tier cities as core markets.
It worked to revive its image as a fashion brand and secured an endorsement deal with actor Kenny Lin last year.
Netizens said Liu's endorsement turned Heilan Home into a brand for middle-aged and old people.