Shein Expands: Fast-Fashion Giant Ventures Into Skincare, Toys, and More

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.30 - 2024 8:15 AM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Shein, the online fast-fashion powerhouse, is broadening its horizons.

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Shein, the online fast-fashion giant known for its inexpensive clothing and accessories, is expanding its business model to include a wider range of products, including skincare, toothpaste, and toys.

As reported by Reuters, the retailer is actively courting major brands like Colgate-Palmolive and Hasbro in an effort to diversify its offerings and compete more directly with Amazon.

Expanding Beyond Fashion

Shein has begun to give brands and retailers access to its platform across nine European countries, building on expansions that occurred last year in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico.

This strategic move is part of Shein's larger ambition to build credibility and position itself as a formidable competitor against giants like Amazon and AliExpress, particularly as it prepares for a planned stock market debut later this year.

During an event in Madrid last month, Shein showcased its marketplace services alongside representatives from Colgate-Palmolive, Hasbro, Suntory Beverage & Food, and Spanish cosmetics brand Bella Aurora.

"Everybody associates Shein with fashion, but we are doing all verticals," Christina Fontana, senior director of brand operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Shein, expressed at a conference in Paris on April 17.

The expansion into varied markets is a response to consumer behavior observed on Shein’s platform, where users have shown a clear interest in branded products.

"Our consumers want brands, [so] if that's what they're looking for, that's what we're going to give them," Fontana added.

Fontana, a former Alibaba employee, is among several marketplace experts Shein has recruited from major e-commerce platforms.

This talent acquisition has contributed to Shein's rapid growth, with the company boasting an average of 108 million monthly active users in the European Union within the six months leading up to January 31.

But Shein's expansion has not been without challenges.

The company now faces new EU regulations that require it to monitor its platform for illegal or harmful products.

Shein's marketplace is currently accessible in key European markets including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Marketplace Dynamics and Brand Partnerships

Experts believe that Shein’s success in competing with established marketplaces will largely depend on the caliber of brands it manages to attract.

"If Shein wants to compete as a trustworthy reputable marketplace platform, it really needs endorsement from well-known Western brands," stated Xiaofeng Wang, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester in Singapore.

In efforts to attract more sellers, Shein's head of seller marketing, Claire Lin, pitched an opportunity for brands to reach millions of shoppers and "supercharge" sales.

"Our shopping experience is very sticky, it's very much gamified," she claimed. "It's fun to shop on our site, so what we see is the minimum shopping time is around eight minutes, well above industry average."

Shein's customer base predominantly consists of Gen Z and millennials, and is largely female, with women making up about 80% of its shoppers, according to Lin.

Home goods, electronics, and beauty & health are currently the top-performing categories. The only category Shein does not offer is food and beverages.

Sustainability and Brand Perception

Despite the opportunities Shein offers, some brands remain cautious.

Jayn Sterland, UK & Ireland country manager at Weleda, noted that while the Swiss cosmetics brand is present on Shein’s platform via third-party retailers, it has no plans to sell directly on Shein.

Factors such as marketplace reputation, brand perception, and environmental impact are critical considerations for brands assessing potential partnerships.

While Colgate-Palmolive did not respond to comments, a Hasbro spokesperson indicated their participation in the Madrid event was to broadly discuss marketplace dynamics.

A spokesperson for Suntory clarified that their attendance was solely for sharing best practices, with no intentions to sell beverages on Shein’s platform.

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