Chinese shopping app Shein overtakes Amazon by going ultra-fast fashion

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
_More daily views than daily new Shein items [Nick David/Stone via GettyImages]_

More daily views than daily new Shein items [Nick David/Stone via GettyImages]

50 new fits... for 50 new TikTok vids. Amazon's feeling more like MySpace right now. After 152 days as the #1 ecomm app in the US, the 'Zon has lost the top spot to Shein. The Chinese online apparel retailer is a Gen Z favorite, thanks to low prices and a massive offering of on-trend clothing. Shein adopted the fast-fashion model pioneered by Forever 21, H&M, and Zara — then turbocharged it:

  • Quick fits: Shein spots a halter top that's trending on social. Two weeks later, it’s on Shein's virtual shelves for $10 less than the original. Shein added 5.2K new items yesterday alone.
  • Quick hits: TikTok and Insta influencers are key to its marketing, along with virtual concerts from celebs like Katy Perry and Lil Nas X.
  • Tight lips: Shein is still super secretive about its business, suppliers, factory conditions, and management.

We do know one thing... Shein is raking in the big bucks. Sales reportedly more than tripled to $10B last year — well above Zara's online sales. Shein's US success is partly thanks to a loophole: Trump's 2018 China tariffs only applied to packages over $800 (very rare for a Shein order). Then China effectively waived export taxes for D2C companies, adding more fuel to Shein's US growth.


Welcome to "real-time fashion"... In the TikTok era, trends change so fast it's hard to keep up. Fast fashion retailers are struggling as Zillenials opt for second-hand Levi's over H&M florals. By sharing app search data with suppliers, Shein can react to new trends almost instantly. If peacock patterns are trending on Monday, Shein can tell Chinese factories to have peacock crops/shorts/earrings ready for shipping by next Wednesday — much faster than even fast fashion. One big downside: real-time fashion could result in even more waste and enviro-harm.