Although Shein has largely flown under the radar despite its rampant popularity with Gen Z, the fast-fashion e-tailer may be apparel’s biggest breakout success this year. And with rumors buzzing that the Chinese e-commerce company may be filing for an IPO, industry watchers will be glued to the retailer’s every move.
Shein’s overall success and financial performance remains somewhat murky, with some estimates pegging the company’s revenue last year at $10 billion, while the retailer itself says it has doubled its turnover for eight years running. As of June 16, Shein accounts for 28 percent of the fast-fashion market alone, more than doubling the 13 percent share the company held to start the year, according to Earnest Research.
Its growth makes sense when accounting for the company’s ability to turn and launch new products at a frenetic pace—Shein touts more than 2,000 new items of clothing and accessories arriving daily on its website.
What’s more, third-party app developers that track the mobile software sector indicated in recent months that Shein is second to none when it comes to the most-downloaded apps.
According to data from OnlineCasinoMaxi.de, Shein is the leading shopping app in combined downloads from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store worldwide with an estimated 17.52 million downloads in July, more than twice that of the Amazon Shopping app.
Other reports have corroborated the high downloads rate in recent months. According to a June study from mobile app developer App Annie, Shein’s downloads grew 12 percent year over year to 40.1 million in the second quarter, while monthly active users climbed 24 percent to 71 million. On top of that, both average sessions per user and average time per user jumped 12 percent.
The women’s fashion brand caters to a younger, mobile-savvy audience, with the app leveraging “influencer” style product placements in images, allowing for outfit “likes” and encouraging shoppers to submit user-generated content in a bid to attract young consumers.
The strategy is paying off, App Annie says, acknowledging that users spent 215 percent more time in the app in the past 12 months, totaling approximately 22.9 monthly million hours. By global user breakdown, Shein saw a 170 percent year-over-year increase in Mexico, a 490 percent boost in the U.K., a 530 percent jump in France and 550 percent lift in Canada. In March, over 88 percent of consumers who installed the Shein app used it at least once in the month.
Shein says it has a team dedicated to developing products through in-depth trend analysis scrutinizing individual country characteristics and tastes, further enabling it to detect local patterns that allow product launches that better meet shopper needs.
Mobile goes hand in hand with social media, and Shein is shining on Gen Z-centric platforms like TikTok and Instagram. In July, Shein was the leading brand globally on TikTok based on the number of mentions, with 6,625 for the month, according to data tracked by OnlineCasinoMaxi.de. Shein’s official Tiktok account clocked the third-fastest growth on the platform, rising 600 percent in July alone. On Instagram, Shein ranked No. 3 based on the number of mentions from English-speaking influencers at an estimated 27,400.
The latest example of Shein’s reach for global relevance comes as the fast fashion seller expands further into Latin America, partnering with Mexican broadcast network TV Azteca on a campaign within “La Voz” (Mexico’s version of the U.S. hit reality series “The Voice”). Using Shein’s Digital Room platform, La Voz contestants can share their experiences on stage and offer viewers a glimpse into both their personalities and fashion personas.
The La Voz partnership was engineered to help Shein reach new audiences in emerging markets.
Shein’s television exposure is yet another way the e-commerce giant is keeping relevant. Last month, the company unveiled the Shein x 100K Challenge, a four-episode “Project Runway”-like series featuring judges such as fashion designer Christian Siriano, former J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, Zendaya’s stylist Law Roach and TV personality-slash-Good American founder Khloé Kardashian. The Shein x 100K Challenge streamed on Shein’s official social media pages, as well as its mobile app.
Although an IPO may be in the works for Shein, Chinese authorities have cracked down on the country’s biggest tech companies in recent months, whether it is e-commerce giant Alibaba, which was fined $2.8 billion in an anti-monopoly probe, or ridehailing company Didi, which recently went public in the U.S. but was forced to halt new user registrations amid a cybersecurity review.
Gary Gensler, the chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) told Bloomberg last month that Chinese companies already listed in the U.S. need to better inform investors about regulatory and political risks.
The uncertain environment in which China-based companies operate could bring unfavorable conditions to Shein, which reportedly is looking to launch its IPO in the U.S. Any activity on the go-public front is likely to remain on ice in the short term, at least until investors have greater confidence that regulatory pressures will dissipate.
Additionally, as the company continues to come under fire from both independent designers and major brands alike for infringing on product designs, Shein might not be ready for the transparency that is supposed to come with a public filing. Last month, Reuters reported that Shein failed to make public disclosures about working conditions along its supply chain as legally required by the U.K. A labor rights group even said in a recent assessment of the company that it offered no transparency regarding its suppliers or audit benchmarks.
The company was caught outright lying about its supply chain credentials, claiming that its factories were certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and were in compliance with standards set by SA8000. ISO only establishes standards, but doesn’t certify other countries for using them. Social Accountability International, which administers the SA8000 standard, said that Shein had not been certified through its program and that it had not engaged with the company.