When it comes to fast fashion, Shein and Pretty Little Thing (PLT) are among the top brands selling online. They have the particularity of offering very low prices, defying the competition and a wide choice of parts, which are constantly renewed.
Often criticized for their approach, these brands managed to seduce their target audience, young people under the age of 25, through communication aimed primarily at Instagram and Tiktok’s social networks.
It was in 2008 that Shein was born under the name Sheinside. Founded by Chris Xu, the platform specialized first in wedding dresses and then opened for ready-to-wear. In 2015, the application changed name and opted for Shein, shorter and therefore easier to remember. The pandemic and explosion of e-commerce is beneficial for the platform which is setting record numbers.
The average price of a product purchased from Shein was 7.5 euros at the end of June 2021, according to data shared by Kantar Worldpanel. As a symbol of ultra-fast fashion, Shein promises more than 500 new products a day, with a sales model entirely on the Internet, increasing profitability.
PrettyLittleThing is a UK-based fashion retailer targeting women aged 16-35. The platform was co-founded in 2012 by brothers Umar and Adam Kamani. They first sold accessories in limited quantities before launching the ready-to-wear. In January 2017, Boohoo owned by their father Mahmud Kamani bought 66 percent of the company and then became the full owner of PLT in 2020.
Before founding Shein, Chris Xu worked for an information and technology company. He was previously known as YangTian Xu.
PrettyLittleThing is first and foremost a family affair, that of the Kamanis. After the two brothers, the company is integrated into the Boohoo family group, led by their father.
A digital strategy focused on Instagram and TikTok
Intensive social media marketing is Shein’s strategy. Instagram is the main network used by the pure player. The official page has 23.4 million subscribers and the Shein France page has 752,000. Shein is very active on these platforms and averages between five and ten posts per day. These are promotional photos and also sharing videos and images posted by influencers or subscribers. On the networks, Shein also shares discounts and promotions to continuously entice consumers to visit the app.
On TikTok, Shein reigns supreme. The brand quickly understood how the platform works and what kind of content attracts young people. With 3.6 million subscribers on his official account and 269,000 on the French page, Shein hits the mark right away. The hashtags “Haulshein” and “sheintryonhaul” have 712.5 million and 514 million views respectively. In internet language, a Haul consists of presenting and giving feedback, through a video, on recently purchased items. The brand also has a presence on Facebook with 250,000 subscribers and Twitter with 419,000 followers.
During Paris Fashion Week, Shein hosted a “#SHEINforall” virtual fashion show via the Shein app on Sunday, February 20, as well as on social media.
PrettyLittleThing has 17.7 million subscribers on Instagram, over two million on Facebook, and finally 79,000 on Twitter. Unlike Shein, Pretty Little Thing consolidates its business into one account and serves its customers in English. The brand publishes daily inspiration for looks and reposts the publications of influencers it collaborates with.
Shein’s turnover is estimated at more than 8.8 billion euros. According to Kantar Worldpanel, Shein is the sixth largest fashion e-tailer in France with 10 million unique visitors in June 2021.
Shein’s strength also comes from targeted production. Thanks to artificial intelligence, according to demand, the company produces within ten days compared to, for example, two months for H&M. When a part is in high demand, it is produced in large quantities and the least purchased products quickly disappear from the catalog.
Pretty Little Thing, one of the leading low-cost fashion brands, is distributed worldwide. In 2019, the turnover amounted to almost 400 million euros. Mahmud Kamani, owner of Boohoo Group which owns PLT, is estimated to be worth 1.4 billion pounds sterling according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Behind the high profitability and mass production hides a not very glamorous reality. Shein is singled out for design thefts and products of questionable quality. The small prices displayed on the application, supplemented by regular promotions, have a price. In November 2021, the Swiss NGO Public Eye published an investigation into the dark side of Shein. Disastrous working conditions and a worrying environmental impact, the report was quickly taken up on the web, most notably by MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, a staunch defender of the Uyghur community, who denounced these practices.
If the allegations about the employees’ working conditions and respect for the environment for Shein are recent, Pretty Little Thing is piling up these allegations. Unlike most fast fashion companies, PLT manufactures in England and works with several suppliers, particularly in the city of Leicester, known for its many factories producing for fast fashion. This local production does not prevent the company from standing out. In a survey, RTBF.be denounced the working conditions in these factories in Leicester where most workers are paid £3.50 (ie £4.17), i.e. half the minimum hourly wage, set at £8 in the UK. 91 pounds sterling (ie 10.62). euros).
On February 16, 2022, the PLT parade in London was disrupted by activists who came to denounce the company’s working conditions and ultra-fashion. Venetia La Manna and Mayisha Begum, who fight against fast fashion and for more ethical fashion, wanted to make the guests of the brand aware of the production conditions of the pieces they value so much.
PLT is also singled out for the character who is considered too sexual in its ads. When releasing its campaign with Doja Cat, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the self-regulatory body for the UK advertising industry, called the content of the promotional video “excessively sexualized”. MailOnline claims that the entire video has been heavily edited to tone down its explicit nature. In 2017, an ad for the brand featuring models who “appeared to be under 16”, according to the BBC, was banned.
In July 2021, Shein diversifies its activities and launches Shein X, a program that supports 50 young creators (students, self-taught or experienced) and gives them the means to develop their creative project. While taking care of the artistic part, the company took care of the production, sales and marketing of the designed pieces.
Though criticized for belonging to the ultra-fast fashion category, Pretty Little Thing has released an ethical collection called “Recycled”. The line consists of basics made from recycled fabrics and plastic bottles. WWD says the company has announced it plans to create 5,000 jobs over the next five years.
In March 2020, the Pretty Little Thing Awards will be organized to reward the most influential web personalities in business. The platform is organizing the first edition of its award ceremony which consists of ten categories. Among them, the category of the fashion influencer of the year, that of the personality of the year or even the Youtuber of the year.
In May 2021, Shein revealed a collaboration with Wejdene, the 17-year-old singer is a hit and is widely followed by Generation Z. She has 2.2 million subscribers on Instagram.
Creating capsule collections with influencers is part of Pretty Little Thing’s strategy. Among the celebrities who have collaborated with the fashion platform are Kylie Jenner, Léa Elui, Doja Cat, Teyana Taylor, Lil Kim, and many others.
Even if they do not produce in the same country, Shein and Pretty Little Thing have adopted the model of ultra-fast fashion, which always offers more novelties, at increasingly lower prices. Also on social networks, the two companies rely on influencers to promote their pieces. Shein has a more offensive and focused strategy. For these larger markets, the platform opens special accounts, in the language spoken in the country, to reach the goal more easily and it works because the number of subscribers is much higher than Pretty Little Thing. However, when it comes to partnering with influencers, the two brands employ different strategies. As PLT launches capsule collections with them, Shein asks them for Hauls or to share coupons and promos on their accounts.
Don’t want to miss any news about the fashion industry? Don’t wait any longer and do like many other professionals in the sector: Subscribe to the newsletter from Fashion United!