China's turbo-charged online fashion takes on Zara and H&M
MADRID, Oct 18: China's Shein may be the biggest shopping site you've never heard of.
The fast-fashion player is encroaching on the territory of more established rivals like Zara and H&M. It has become the largest, purely online, fashion company in the world measured by sales of self-branded products, according to Euromonitor.
Nanjing-based Shein, founded in 2008, is aiming squarely at the "Gen Z" social-media generation, using influencers on Instagram and TikTok, and discount codes, to attract younger shoppers in an increasingly crowded fashion market.
It offers low-cost styles, uploading hundreds of new designs to its app every week. The price for a dress is around half that of Zara, according to a recent Societe Generale price survey.
"You can save money, which is important when buying clothes as the fashions change so quickly," said Rebeca Rondon, a 23-year-old student in Valencia, Spain, whose Instagram page compares dozens of styles from Shein and Zara head-to-head.
The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted online sales at retailers, giving online-only players like Shein, Britain's Asos ASOS.L and Germany's Zalando ZALG.DE an edge over Inditex-owned Zara ITX.MC and H&M HMb.ST which have big city-centre stores.
In September, the Shein app saw 10.3 million downloads globally from across the App Store and Google Play, Sensor Tower data shows. In comparison, H&M's mobile app hit about 2.5 million, and Zara saw 2 million.
To date, Shein has reached 229.4 million downloads, versus H&M's 123.5 million and Zara's 90.6 million, the data shows.
In the week of Sep. 27-Oct. 3, Shein was the most downloaded shopping app globally on iPhones, according to analytics platform App Annie. It ranked in the top 10 in the United States, Brazil, Australia, Britain and Saudi Arabia.
Privately-owned Shein, which also sells on Amazon, does not publicly disclose sales or other financial figures. The company did not respond to emails or phone calls.
It has backing from investors including IDG Capital and Sequoia Capital China, according to PitchBook capital market data. The funds did not respond to interview requests. -Reuters