Updated: Jun 19
If you're someone that enjoys buying trendy styles at cheap prices, there's a strong possibility that you've run across the e-Commerce brands Romwe, Shein and Zaful to name a few.
Retailers like these, as well as some major retailers, use a method called Fast Fashion - the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk, to stores to meet new trend demands.
SheIn is one of the many companies claiming to provide trendy, inexpensive and quality fashions, delivered with exceptional customer service. This investigation will look into these claims to determine if these statements are true or if they're simply jargon pushed to provide a sense of trust in the company.
Shein was founded in 2008 in Shenzhen China by Chris Xu. The company has numerous branches spreading from America, Belgium, Dubai, Nanjing, Guangzhou to Shenzhen. Their linkedIn profiles describes "owning more than 6000 employees globally", but for the sake of this investigation, we'll follow the assumption that they mean they employ 6000 team members.
Taking a further Look into the company's LinkedIn profile...
"SHEIN, the largest B2C e-commerce company exporting fast fashion goods in China..."
"... we share the most energetic and youngest internet culture atmosphere; we work with outstanding, creative and friendly peers; we shape our culture as innovating, sharing, customer focus, sparing no efforts. Welcome each of courageous you to join us and SHINE OUT together". (SheIn)
The claims by the company would be extremely attractive to any fashionista penny pincher, but does the company really deliver on these claims?
To start, we'll take a look at Shein's track record for:
Advertising, Discounts & Promotions
and Customer service
Better Business Bureau Profile
To start, we'll be referring to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB uses a grading system, with points based on complaints, reviews and resolutions offered by the company to give businesses a grade from A to F.
As of this post, SheIn's BBB grade is an "F", with 2 out of 6 stars in terms of customer reviews and they are not BBB accredited. The BBB has also flagged SheIn's profile for fraudulent business practices. Learn more about BBB's rating scale.
For the sake of fairness and to ensure that SheIn's grade is not based on their lack of accreditation - I took a dive into the customer reviews and complaints to get a broader scope of the possible reason for the low score.
SheIn has a total of 251 BBB complaints, with issues ranging from Advertising, to order processing and delivery.
The Reports include complaints like:
To compound the stress felt by customers, SheIn generally responds by not responding at all, or by sending an extremely generic response that reads as follows:
"A member of Shein's US Team has sent you an email from *****************. Please be sure to check your emails Spam folder in the event it was filtered."
These responses may alleviate some of the customers' anxiety for a while, but a trend of nothingness soon follows...that's correct, no response at all. And unfortunately, after the company "responds" with this generic message and the customer accepts the response, the BBB considers the case "resolved" unless the customer adds additional content to their initial post - leaving the door open for the company to not follow through. Based on the information found, that door is rarely closed, leaving many customers out of product and money.
Aside from the BBB, various platforms have expressed their concerns about the company's business practices, sparking the debate of whether this is a legitimate company or if it's really a scam.
Before buyers really knew who or what SheIn was, there were various videos and articles posted about product quality or lack thereof. But over the past few years as customers understand the workmanship of the brand, there are fewer complaints in regards to the company's overall quality.
This doesn't mean that product quality is satisfactory, it just means that customers have gotten used to it.
Most product complaints are about the thinness of the material, the fit of the garment and the sometimes misleading ads where the picture of what you ordered does not quite match the garment you actually received.
That being said, SheIn customers are more likely to buy from the site to dress up for one night, go on a trip or for going on holiday - this is in stark contrast to purchasing for extended use, as with more traditional brands.
Advertising, Discounts and Promotions
SheIn was masterful in its advertising techniques. Using 2 of the largest media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), the company was able to promote to young and seasoned alike. Add a cheap price tag, with discounted shipping options and a recipe for quick success has been created.
But here's where there's a problem...SheIn used promotions to cater to buyers in western countries, by using western sized, models to promote they're trending styles. The choice of models used by the company doesn't appear to be off-putting on the surface, but given that this is an Asian brand, size variations are vast. This causes a discrepancy in sizing and fit, contributing to the company's quality complaints and brought major attention to the company's advertising flaws.
As stated previously, Items received by customers did not appear to be the same as the items viewed on the website, revealing a lack of continuity in the product and spawning the debate of warehouse locations - giving the company yet another layer of perceived shadowy operations.
A major issue plaguing SheIn is their delivery track record.
Customers reported that they weren't receiving their purchases in a reasonable time period even when expedited shipping was paid for. Customers have complained of receiving their items up to 3 months late with some customers not getting their items at all.
To top it off - customers have a difficult time contacting customer support. When they are able to contact the company, replies are vague or insufficient at best. In many cases, customers have given up on trying to retrieve their items or obtain a refund.
Customer service is a main component of any successful business. Buyers have to feel safe that if there's an issue with their purchase, they can be made whole again....unfortunately, SheIn has completely missed the boat here.
Based on the reports found on BBB, a lot if not all of the issues plaguing SheIn could have been resolved if handled in an expedient and customer driven manner. Lack of customer engagement and shoddy business practices has caused many news based outlets to take a 2nd look at the company's validity
The Seller Pipeline
In short, SheIn is a legitimate business (even if it's a loose interpretation of legitimate), but your SheIn purchase may or may not come from the source that you expect.
SheIn, is part of a large B2B (buyer 2 buyer) infrastructure where retailers can use drop-shipping services. This option is not just limited to large retailers, but to small, independent sellers as well.
The company is Supported by several venture capital firms like JAFCO, IDG and Greenwoods since founded. Along with being part of the ChinaBrands conglomerate, the company also acquired, China brand Romwe in 2014 and American Brand MakeMeChic in 2015.
It's notable that SheIn can be found on the ChinaBrands website, but is somewhat hidden. As long as "pl" is located behind the brand name, the brand listing can be found. Without the "pl", no results are found.
This could simply be a navigation flaw with the site, or this could be a blatant attempt to hide the association. Either way, it appears a little shady, lending more traction to the idea of the company engaging in fraudulent practices.
The life-cycle of fast fashions is much shorter than those of higher priced brands. Some parts of garment creation are very similar between fast fashion and more traditional clothing manufacturing.
In both cases, Fabric is created - higher priced brands lean towards natural materials, fast fashion uses synthetic materials using a method called polymerization.
The production process for traditional brands involves carefully sewn pieces, using closer to custom fit patterns. Creation of fast fashion pieces are churned out at an expedient pace, using cheap labor and stringent production practices. Unfortunately, this cheap labor includes child labor.
Garments are then purchased and shipped to retailers for traditional clothiers. Fast fashion purchases are shipped to retailers and to the customers of B2B drop-shipping partners. Finally, the retailer or drop-shipper sells the garment to the end buyer.
The industry touts the benefits of synthetic fabrics on the environment by expressing the sustainability of these materials, while those in opposition of fast fashion express the detrimental effects that this industry has on the environment.
The fact is, unlike traditional brands, that can be worn for many years and donated or passed down before ending up as scrap material or in a landfill - fast fashions fall apart in a relatively short period of time.
Traditional styles have a lifespan of several years, while fast fashions have a lifespan closer to 60 days - depending on how often the piece is worn. In general, you'll be fortunate to get 10 wears out of it.
The short use time of fast fashions, removes the option for long-term use and pretty much contradicts the idea that fast fashion is more sustainable than traditional fashions. Though there are true benefits to advancements in technology, the fact is these fashions use materials that are not technically biodegradable and attempted re-use is not an economically viable option.
These fashions can easily fill-up landfills, lasting anywhere from 20 to 200 years before they degrade, causing toxic chemicals to impact soil and waterways, creating a problem that will plague generations to come.
This investigation took a look into the SheIn corporation. A company that has made monumental e-commerce moves, by creating a perfect blend of marketing techniques, youthful models, and relatable photography styles to promote their fashions to trend hungry buyers.
But, their mesh of professional and personal sellers without use of core practices, causes a big gap in procedural guidelines - Making the brand susceptible to kinks in their customer satisfaction and engagement armor.
At some point, this industry may face more scrutiny, with laws or some sort of legislation put in place to ensure customers are treated fairly - but, for now, fast fashion doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The industry allows fashion forward buyers to keep up with trends, while saving more, to buy more, to keep up with trends. With today's emphasis on the superficial, this is an intoxicating trade off, explaining why the company has continued to grow in-spite of the negative experiences and reviews.
SheIn is not much different than other fast fashion manufacturers. When everything falls in line with expected quality and fit, the experience of buying from the company can be a reasonable one. What sets them apart, and could lead to their downfall, is their lack of customer engagement and lack of business practices that show genuine interest in the satisfaction of the buyer.
If the company takes time to discover and employ better customer relations, along with being more discretionary about their selling partners, the company could lay the ground work to improve their image and find continued expansion in the eCommerce fashion market.