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Why ThredUp Urged Followers to ‘Skip’ Shein Popup

ThredUp took its crusade against fast fashion a step further Thursday by explicitly calling out the popular Chinese e-tailer Shein on Instagram.

The Bay Area resale giant specifically targeted a three-day popup Shein hosted over the weekend in San Francisco, encouraging followers to “skip” the event and to “tell Shein NOT to come to your city.” The post’s accompanying graphic featured pictures of landfills and text saying “SKIP #SHEINSANFRAN,” “DON’T GO” and “landfills here we come.”

“If you’re planning to attend the #sheinsanfran pop-up this week, skip it,” ThredUp wrote. “Ultra fast fashion is destroying the planet. 100 billion clothing items are produced each year for a planet of 8 billion people. And [Shein] is one of the worst offenders. They list thousands of brand-new styles EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. encouraging endless consumption and creating disposable fashion waste.”

With more than 6,000 likes, the post has proved ThredUp’s most popular since mid-April.

Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing at ThredUp, said the post was not about “going after Shein,” but using the popup as “an opportunity to educate consumers and provide them with the context they need to make responsible fashion choices.” A spokesperson for the Chinese e-tailer said consumers snapped up tickets to its U.S. popups in a matter of “hours,” indicating strong “customer demand and excitement around SHEIN, our products and the experience we are providing.”

Despite its harsh words for TikTok’s most-buzzed-about brand, ThredUp has no plans to stop selling the brand’s items. “If people choose to shop Shein, we’d rather they purchase pieces that already exist by choosing secondhand,” Wallace said. The resale marketplace currently lists more than 24,000 Shein items on its platform.

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“Shein produces tons of cheap clothes that perpetuate a harmful buy, wear, discard cycle,” Wallace said. “As a result of Shein’s production, there are lots of Shein clothes in the market. Our mission at ThredUp is to extend the life of clothing by keeping it in closets and out of landfills. In pursuit of that mission, we will continue to accept Shein items that meet our quality standards and list them on our site. The more people embrace reuse over disposable fashion, the more we can slow the cycle of overproduction and underutilization.”

Though ThredUp offers sellers payouts of up to 80 percent of the selling price for premium and designer brands like Lululemon and Gucci, and of up to 60 percent for mid-priced brands like Gap and Nike, thousands of “low-priced value brands” are considered ineligible, including Shein. Other companies that do not qualify include Aeropostale, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy and Uniqlo.

ThredUp’s 2022 Resale Report, published last month, found that 74 percent of fast fashion shoppers believed their individual consumption habits had a significant impact on the planet. Forty-three percent said they felt guilty for wearing or purchasing fast fashion and 62 percent said fast fashion retailers encourage people to buy things they don’t need. Sixty-five percent of this fast fashion-buying cohort said they aspired to buy more secondhand fashion.

The investment bank and financial services company UBS published a report earlier this month analyzing Shein’s customer demographics and why consumers are buying from the brand.

According to an online survey UBS’ Evidence Lab conducted, Shein’s average U.S. customer skews more female, younger and lower income than the customer of the typical retailer. Roughly one-third, 32.4 percent, of U.S. customers landed between the ages of 18 and 24. Another 36.2 percent were 25 to 34. These two groups made up 16 percent and 27.5 percent of all respondents, respectively.

In the U.S., Shein customers reported purchasing more items at higher rates compared to the average consumer. Twenty-four percent of Shein consumers, for example, said they shopped at Shein about once a month or more, four points higher than the survey average of 20 percent. Thirteen percent of Shein customers said they purchased once every four to six months, versus 8 percent of average consumers. Survey respondents from Europe, however, reported buying Shein less often than the average.

The survey also found multiple splits between U.S. and European consumers on purchase motivation. In the U.S., 45 percent of Shein customers said they bought the brand because it was “affordably priced,” well above the survey average of 35 percent. In Europe, only 23 percent said the same of Shein, nearly in line with the survey average, 22 percent. A related attribute, “good value,” was cited by 31 percent of Shein’s U.S. customers—in line with the overall average, 31 percent—and 30 percent of Shein’s European customers—well above the overall average, 21 percent.

The two groups showed an even greater divergence when it came to how they valued “good workmanship.” Thirty percent of European Shein customers said they shopped with the brand because of good workmanship, nearly three times the survey average of 11 percent. The quality tied with “good value” as the top factors motivating consumers in Europe to purchase from Shein.

In the U.S., meanwhile, good workmanship proved the second-least cited factor motivating Shein customers. Only 16 percent said the quality led them to buy from Shein, less than the survey average, 22 percent.

According to the UBS report, Shein overtook Amazon earlier this year as the most-downloaded shopping app in the United States (separate data says the former dethroned the latter last year). Walmart ranks fourth, Nike sixth and Etsy seventh. Shein also proved the most-Googled apparel retailer in the U.S. during a four-week period in May, with Macy’s, Kohl’s and Old Navy finishing second, third and fourth, respectively.

Despite all this, UBS Evidence Labs’ survey found Shein’s unaided awareness at just 2 percent in the U.S. in February. Top-ranked brands included Nike at 30 percent, Adidas at 15 percent and Levi’s at 13 percent. Its aided awareness stood at 36.3 percent, putting it sixth among online retailers in the U.S., behind Amazon, 82.5 percent; eBay, 60.6 percent; Poshmark, 50.5 percent; QVC, 37.2 percent; and Stitch Fix, 36.3 percent.