A CHINESE fast-fashion company without a global network of physical stores of its own is seeking a valuation that could be more than the combined worth of high-street staples Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA’s Zara.
Shein, an online-only retailer of inexpensive clothes, beauty and lifestyle products that pumps out over 6,000 new items daily, is in talks with potential investors including General Atlantic for a funding round that could value the company at about $100 billion, Bloomberg News reported Sunday.
Should Shein succeed with the round, it would make the decade-old brand about twice as valuable as Tokyo-based Fast Retailing Co. — the owner of Uniqlo — which last year had more than 2,300 outlets in 25 countries and regions. It would also make Shein the world’s most-valuable startup after ByteDance Ltd. and SpaceX, according to data provider CB Insights.
While funding rounds indicate the value of a business broadly, initial public offerings (IPO) offer a sharper peek into whether a wider base of investors shares the same enthusiasm, especially after the books are thrown open to the public for scrutiny. Most manage to get the valuation they seek, if not better, but some fail. Shein hasn’t unveiled any plans for an IPO.
Since its launch in 2012, Shein has developed an extensive network of low-cost suppliers in southern China. During the pandemic, it worked with celebrities like Lil Nas X and Katy Perry to boost its profile among Gen Z shoppers outside China.
Early in the pandemic, Shein benefited from changes in consumer behavior, as shoppers made even more of their purchases on phones or computers. Sales more than tripled in 2020 to $10 billion, making Shein the biggest web-only fashion brand in the world.
The new investment round would reflect the impact of a surge in sales for Shein. At the time of a funding round in Aug. 2020, Shein had a valuation of $15 billion, according to PitchBook.
Shein’s potentially astonishing valuation also masks some of the adverse impact the fast-fashion industry has on the environment. Though the closely held company hasn’t commented on its carbon footprint, the sector is often blamed for its heavy reliance on petrochemicals derived from oil. Fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output, according to the United Nations Environment Program. It also accounts for a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year — a product that is the backbone of polyester, which has overtaken cotton as the primary material in textile production. — Bloomberg