As consumers continue to demand faster and cheaper products, China-based online clothing brand Shein is at the forefront of an even faster model of fast fashion and its popularity is skyrocketing. .
Sheins site ranking first in the world for web traffic in the fashion and clothing category, ranking ahead of historical brands such as Nike, Zara and Macy’s. A recent report also ranked Shein as the most talked about brand on TikTok in 2020.
Matthew Brennan writes about Chinese tech companies. He said Shein is the fastest growing e-commerce company in the world, and the company relies on a model called real-time mode, which cuts design-to-production time to just days.
For fast fashion, speed is really important, and if you’re able to turn quickly when an item is doing well, that gives you a lasting edge over your competition, Brennan said.
Brennan spoke to “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about Shein’s growth and how her real-time model played into her success.
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Matthieu Brennan: Realtime fashion refers to the model developed by Sheins in which you are in the Shein app and you put something in your shopping cart. When they upload a new article, they can actually update the systems they have in the back end, so the action you take can have an immediate effect on the workshop. So everything from the website back-end to the supply chain management system is linked to each other.
Kai Ryssdal: But the moral of the story is they’re wired to get it from your phone at lightning speed.
Brennan: Yes exactly. For fast fashion, speed is really important, and if you are able to turn quickly when an item is doing well, it gives you a lasting advantage over your competition.
Ryssdal: You write that Shein is the fastest growing e-commerce company in the world. If it is growing so fast, how is it that it is not better known?
Brennan: Sheins is extremely well known in the demographic he targets. You talk to a woman under 30 in North America, she’ll usually tell you it’s a brand she’s generally very familiar with. But outside of that demographics, you’re right. It is much less known.
Ryssdal: Do you think that this, which they are capable of doing, could happen anywhere other than China, which has the workforce infrastructure for it, it has the industrial infrastructure for it? It’s sort of specific to China, isn’t it?
Brennan: They certainly have an advantage in China’s supply chain. China is no longer the cheapest place to manufacture. You can go to markets like India or Bangladesh; labor costs are significantly lower in these markets. But China still has an overall advantage in terms of speed and flexibility, and the infrastructure package is still best in class.
Ryssdal: Let me dig a little deeper into the demographic question, which I’m clearly not a member of, and that’s fine. But as we were starting to get ready for this interview, I went to Shein’s site, and clicked around, and there’s a little tab that says, Men, and I clicked on it. And look, it’s nothing I’ll never wear. But the question is, do they seek to expand beyond women under 30?
Brennan: Sure. I think you know, when you look at something like that, you start with, you know, appeal to a demographic, and then you can start to grow from that. So that’s exactly what we see Shein doing. If we go back to just a few years ago, yes, it was almost all women’s fashion. Today that is not true. The categories are much more varied. They have men’s fashion, they have household items for your kitchen. So in several vectors here we can see that they are clearly expanding their offerings.
Ryssdal: So listen, if you’re the new guy running Amazon, now that Jeff Bezos just wants to go into sub-orbit, are you worried?
Brennan: You could be, you could be. I mean, I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking Shein is Amazon-wide. It is certainly not now. But if you could think about it, you know, how would an Amazon disruptor come about? You know, they use a model, their model is very, very difficult, maybe impossible for Amazon to copy, and they come up with a price advantage. You know, if you go back three years, and if you said, you know, could a business come in and compete with Facebook? Most people in Silicon Valley would have said no, that is not possible. TikTok from China has proven that it is possible. So it’s not beyond the realm of the rational imagination that Shein could do something similar.
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