SHEIN eyes Europe, testing the waters with physical stores

After gaining the largest market share in the US fast fashion sector, SHEIN, the Chinese online-only ultra-fast fashion giant, has stepped up efforts in an offline layout with the ambition of breaking into the European market. In the latest move, the online retailer is set to bring a pop-up experience to the West End in the city of London.

Running from 16 to 18 September, the dedicated space will showcase the retailer’s seasonal collections, including wardrobe staples and partywear. The pop-up event also coincides with London Fashion Week, which takes place between 15 and 20 September. This strategic timing allows the brand to tap into the international fashion fest whilst drawing in consumers’ attention, further raising its profile in a new marketplace.

The move closely follows a series of pop-up events that saw SHEIN’s footprint reaching European cities including Madrid and Barcelona in Spain and Paris in France over the past few months. This also marks SHEIN’s comeback to the UK following the Spring collection pop-up in London’s Covent Garden, where the brand partnered with Klarna, Europe’s biggest fintech unicorn, providing visitors with experiences not only in fashion, styling, and beauty but also wellness and culture with activities such as yoga and calligraphy. 

SHEIN’s stride in an offline layout is in stark contrast to its global rival Amazon’s mass closures of 68 physical stores in the UK and US following the fallout of the pandemic. This has also been viewed as an attempt by SHEIN to gain more market share from their two European peers Zara and H&M, with the two losing ground to the Chinese challenger in the wake of COVID due to heavy reliance on physical assets.

Moreover, SHEIN is in desperate need of fixing its reputation in the Western market, following issues raised over product quality, and design plagiarism, including the recent woe where the firm was accused of “stealing” art designs created by the Dorset contemporary oil painter Vanessa Bowman.

This resulted in a PR crisis for SHEIN despite its global momentum, prompting an online boycott campaign on TikTok, which garnered over 330 million views on the viral short video app. Therefore, in-person experiences are expected to help the brand restore consumer confidence while trialling the traditional fashion business model given the appetite for offline consumption has returned in Europe as the market recovers from the pandemic.   


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