Why has Shein become a breakout hit with America’s teens?
Shein, the secretive fast fashion upstart from China, isn’t exactly environmentally sustainable or transparent but it’s crushing it with American teens.
Among the signs of traction:
- An Earnest Research report from June showed Shein had become the largest fast fashion retailer in the U.S., comprising 28 percent sales, surpassing H&M (20 percent), and Zara (11 percent). At the beginning of 2020, Shein made up seven percent of U.S. fast fashion sales.
- In May, Shein surpassed Amazon.com as the leading downloaded shopping app in the U.S., according to App Annie and SensorTower.
Shein’s success is attributed to its low prices (e.g., $5 crop tops, $15 dresses), newness (1,000 new items dropped daily) and army of influencers (21.1 million Instagram followers).
From an outreach standpoint, Shein has figured out how to make its deals go viral on TikTok and other social platforms. An article in The Goods by Vox stated, “It has cemented its reputation among regular people, particularly Gen Z shoppers, who promote the brand through unsponsored clothing hauls and outfit posts on social media.”
Shein’s deals are made possible via its supply chain that delivers endless fashion options at eye-popping prices. Little is known about Shein’s supply chain, however, because the company keeps a low profile.
A Wall Street Journal profile relied on interviews with third-party suppliers to determine that Shein sources from upwards of 5,000 factories in China, mostly in the southern province of Guangdong, to churn out small batches of 100 to 500 fashion items.
A TechCrunch article stated online technologies further enables Shein to tailor products to local tastes. The articles noted, “The strategy is not unlike TikTok matching content creators with users by using algorithms to understand their habits in real-time.”
Shein has been called out over photos that don’t match images on the app and over product quality and has been accused of copyright infringement and use of child labor. The Journal article concluded that questionable practices as well as sustainability concerns are so far being downplayed by young customers.
Katrina Gagliano, a 29-year-old Shein fan, told the paper, “All that stuff kind of falls to the wayside because you just get so much for your money.”
- Shein Now Leads Fast Fashion – Earnest Research
- How Shein Became the Chinese Apparel Maker American Teens Love – The Wall Street Journal
- Shein is the future of fast fashion. Is that a good thing? – Vox
- Shein overtakes Amazon as top shopping app on US app stores – TechCrunch
- Has Shein reinvented teen e-tailing? – RetailWire
- Taking Stock With Teens – Piper Sandler
- Generation Z Is Willing To Pay More For Eco-Friendly Products – Advertising Age
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why haven’t lack of transparency nor its sustainability challenges been much of a hurdle for Shein? Has the Chinese company created a retail model for long-term success in the U.S.?