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Middle Aged Women are Shein’s Average Customers, So Should We Stop Blaming Gen Z for the Fast Fashion Brands Success?

by Madeline Anne

The average age of a shopper on ultra-fast-fashion titan Shein is 34.7 years old, a new report has revealed.

According to the report, which was published by UBS Securities and reported by Business Insider, Shein’s customer demographic primarily comprises of women with an average annual income of $65,300, typically spending around $100 per month on clothing.

In addition, the report found that 44% of participants believe their sustainable choices in other areas of life, including recycling and eating less meat, compensate for their fast fashion shopping decisions.

Surveying 684 regular Shein customers, it also revealed that 30% of respondents prioritise value and comfort over fashion when shopping, compared to 42% for the average customer.

At first glance, the findings may appear disconnected from a popular narrative that surrounds fast fashion, concerning the ubiquity of sites like SheIn, Temu, and TikTok Shop, and the age demographic that drove the industry’s stratospheric rise to prominence in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

Thanks to the success of many 20-something influencers and creators posting ‘shopping hauls’ on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, the availability, abundance, and price of products on Shein has drawn the attention of millions of social media users, perhaps leading some to believe believe that these same teenagers are single-handedly driving the fast fashion bus. 

Users are also able to vicariously experience the thrill of buying tons of new clothes through these creators, without the associated price tag.

In addition, the rapidity of the modern trend cycle, in part driven by TikTok, has drawn consumers to retailers that can provide trendy clothing at a lower price.

It might be difficult to imagine customers willing to shop on Shein would have sustainability concerns front-of-mind. But, according to a separate report published by The New Consumer and Coefficient Capital, 67% of surveyed Shein shoppers are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable goods. 

Based on the answers of more than 3,000 participants in the US, it also found that just over half of overall respondents answered ‘yes’ to the same question.

Some 52% of Shein shoppers consider the environmental impact of a specific purchase, compared to just 32% of overall respondents answering favourably to the same prompt, the report found.

In effect, discovering the average age and sustainability opinions of a sample size of Shein consumers might point in a certain direction when it comes to asking who we can blame for the prominence of fast fashion in today’s consumer landscape.

But is that productive?

Business Insider reported that analysts from UBS Securities suggested that low prices on Shein aren’t the only reason for the website’s success, and rather pointed to its product variety, marketing, and supply chain as contributors to its growing market share.

Meanwhile, Shein continued to expand in 2023, with big ticket acquisitions like its purchase of rivals like Misguided from the Frasers Group, and the establishment of an equity swap deal with Forever 21, according to the Business of Fashion.

Donald Tang, Executive Chairman of Shein, characterised the Misguided acquisition as part of the company’s “unwavering commitment to meet customer demand.”

Shein was pondering a US IPO before it was challenged over its ties to China, and has instead shifted gears to consider floating in the UK instead, as reported by the Financial Times.

So, if the industry is not slowing down, where do we go from here?

Instead of levelling individual responsibility against consumers, it may be time to approach both businesses and policymakers, as well as shoppers, to address the global impacts of fast fashion and create lasting change.

In the meantime, there are ways consumers can adjust their habits to minimise damage, as outlined by the Sustainable Fashion Forum, in order to overcome the attitude-behaviour gap, which it describes as the disconnect between what individuals say they believe or value and how they actually act in practice.

The suggestions include:

1. The acknowledgement of discrepancies between values and actions

2. Finding others who value and endorse sustainable fashion choices

3. Planning specific actions in response to situational clues to manage temptation

4. Creating non-material incentives or rewards for sticking to sustainable fashion goals

While the solution to fast fashion may seem distant, or even impossible, perhaps turn to simple and evergreen fashion advice: less is always more.

Edited by Emily Duff

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