Sep 15, 2022 - Economy

Fast-fashion giant Shein is about to get faster

Illustration of a dress with colorful motion blur trailing it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Fast-fashion is about to get faster.

Driving the news: Shein, the privately held online retailer based in China, plans to build three large distribution centers in the U.S. in an effort to put products in the hands of customers much faster in its largest market, WSJ reports.

Why it matters: Shein is one of the most-visited fashion websites in the world, powered by people who want cheap versions of new styles.

  • U.S. customers currently have to wait 10 to 15 days for orders to be delivered from China, weeks longer than competitors including Amazon, Zara and H&M.
  • The expansion could eventually cut shipping times by three to four days, George Chiao, president of Shein’s U.S. operations, told the Journal. 

The big picture: Shein is the third-most valuable startup in the world. Total annual sales for the company reached at least $16 billion last year, up from $10 billion in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

  • Retailers across the board have been investing in their warehouse and distribution footprint, ranging from Zara to Walmart, amid inventory gluts and increased demand.

What they're saying: As Shein tries to expand into higher priced products, long delivery times have to come down, Credit Suisse analyst Simon Irwin noted to the Journal.

Be smart: What makes fast-fashion fast has a lot to do with compressing the time between market research and customer orders.

  • Shein’s product cycle reportedly takes just a few days compared to competitors’ cycle of weeks.
  • Manual laborers reportedly sew hundreds of pieces a day on tabletop sewing machines.

Our thought bubble: Shorter wait times for items already being cranked out quickly could drive even greater demand for a category criticized for exacerbating overconsumption, carbon emissions and landfill waste.

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