Believe it or not, shar­ing’s in fash­ion

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By OUYANG SHIJIA ouyang­shi­jia@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Okay, let’s check out the many faces of shar­ing economy, shall we?

Ride-hail­ing. Tick. Home­shar­ing. Tick. Home-cooked food. Tick. Short-dis­tance bi­cy­cle rides. Tick. Tick, tick, tick. Fash­ion? Be­fore you out “Are you out of mind?”,pause.

Sev­eral clothing rental plat­forms have emerged in China and are doing well al­ready.

(Come to think of it, it’s not such a ter­ri­bly new con­cept ei­ther. In the West, firms that rent out ex­pen­sive tuxe­dos for black-tie par­ties are dime a dozen. Only, the new an­gle is, the busi­ness is on­line now.)

In­China, clothing rental ser­vices could be di­vided into two cat­e­gories: high-end lux­ury dresses and ev­ery­day clothing.

Li­uMengyuan of­fers the lat­ter va­ri­ety. Her Yi23.net pro­vides sub­scrip­tion-based rental clothing ser­vice for women, es­pe­cially those aged 22 to 35, in first- and­sec­ond-tier cities in blurt your China, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Guangzhou and Shen­zhen.

“It is a huge mar­ket,” said Liu. “So huge its sales will ex­ceed 1 tril­lion yuan ($145 bil­lion) in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Since most (fash­ion) brands (we of­fer) are pro­duced in China, Yi23 spells con­ve­nience for our cus­tomers. And the large pop­u­la­tion of China is a big op­por­tu­nity for us.”

Liu must know. She worked in the fash­ion in­dus­try for 12 years. She be­lieves women love wear­ing more, not less, clothes in their life­time.

“By means of shar­ing economy, I want to share the fash­ion ap­parel with more peo­ple. Or­di­nar­ily, white-col­lar women may need lux­ury dresses for for­mal oc­ca­sions twice a year, which is not their pri­mary need. I want to first solve their big­gest pain point.”

Founded in 2015, Yi23 of­fers users nearly 100 brands and dif­fer­ent sub­scrip­tion plans. On Nov 11 (Sin­gles Day shop­ping fes­ti­val), it of­fered a dis­count of 188 yuan a month for cus­tomers rent­ing three items at a time.

Yi23 serves 35 cities in­China, and has more than 10,000 mem­bers. They can keep the clothing items they rent as long as they want, and then ship them back for free and or­der newones.

The com­pany has re­ceived sev­eral rounds of fi­nanc­ing, in­clud­ing more than $10 mil­lion in fund­ing from in­vestors led byIDG­cap­i­tal in April. Ear­lier, an­gel in­vestorWang Gang and GSR Ven­tures had pumped in sev­eral mil­lions.

Ane­ti­zen­named“Xiaotang’s Se­cret” com­mented on Zhihu, a Chi­nese web­site akin to Quora, that she likes the ap­parel styles on Yi23, es­pe­cially those by in­de­pen­dent de­sign­ers. This could re­duce the chances of oth­ers wear­ing sim­i­lar or iden­ti­cal dresses on the same day, she said in her on­line post.

Ac­cord­ing to a shar­ing economy devel­op­ment re­port, jointly re­leased by the State In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter and the In­ter­net So­ci­ety of China, shar­ing economy plat­forms have cre­ated a mar­ket worth 1.95 tril­lion yuan in 2015. China’s shar­ing economy is ex­pected to ac­count for over 10 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 2020. China’s GDP was 67.7 tril­lion yuan ($9.8 tril­ion) in 2015 and is pro­jected to grow 6-7 per­cent an­nu­ally over the next fewyears.

Li Hao, an an­a­lyst at iRe­search Con­sult­ing Group, said with con­sump­tion pat­terns re­flect­ing upgra­da­tion, fash­ion as part of the shar­ing econ­o­my­may just work well.

That doesn’t mean there are no chal­lenges. “Users may have hy­giene con­cerns. If clothing rental com­pa­nies don’t main­tain enough in­ven­tory, user ex­pe­ri­ence will be af­fected. Costs are key, too.”

Ac­cord­ing to Liu, Yi23 is ex­pected to turn prof­itable in six months as mem­bers in­crease. “In April, we had only one-tenth of mem­bers we have to­day. Cur­rently, the fre­quency at which 98.5 per­cent of our clothing items are rented is quite high.”

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