CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (2/19/2020 Wed.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (2/19/2020 Wed.)

People's Daily app

02:31, February 19, 2020

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From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

China's sharing economy was worth over $400 billion dollars by 2018, an increase of 41 percent year-on-year as 760 million Chinese have paid for shared services or products.

In 2010, sharing economy business models started to emerge in China, about a decade later than Europe and the US. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that explosive growth began to occur. 

Experts have said the annual growth rate in the sharing economy in China should remain steady at around 30 percent over the next three years.

The clothing rental business is a relative newcomer to the emerging sharing economy, the concept has grown in popularity for the flexibility and convenience it provides. 

The rise of several second-hand online trading platforms and the popularity of shared bicycles and cell phone charging towers has eased the stigma usually associated with the sharing economy. 

While using second-hand products has never been popular in China, more people have been opening up to it in recent years. 

Today’s Story in the Story looks at the clothing rental sector and how the idea of wearing used clothes has found acceptance among China’s younger white-collar professionals.  

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Clothing orders are taken at the online rental company Le Tote. (Photo: China Daily)

As an analyst with an international consulting firm, Fiona Shen earns a salary that is twice as much as her friends and can afford to buy whatever catches her fancy.

However, the 31-year-old Shanghai native rarely buys new clothes, preferring to rent them instead. 

For the past three years, Shen has been saving money and wardrobe space by subscribing to a clothing rental service roughly $75 a month. As part of this package, every week, she receives two to three items of clothing that are in line with the latest trends. 

According to her, the main reason she has adopted this approach is the convenience and flexibility it affords.

"Nowadays, when I am traveling for business meetings, I don't even bring clothes. I would simply have the rental platform deliver the garments to my hotel before the trip. I'd then return them without having to go through all the hassle of doing laundry," Shen said.

"I think women just need different clothes instead of new clothes. I don't need a closet that is larger than necessary to prove myself. My professional achievements are my most glittering accessories," she adds.

She is so proud of adopting this approach that she admits to her friends that she rents clothes instead of buying them. 

Consumers like Shen, who are open to renting fashion items, are driving the sharing economy within the fashion industry, which has been slow to jump on the bandwagon, said Clement Tang, CEO of Le Tote China.

A consumer survey by consultancy firm Mintel found that transportation remains the most popular segment in the sharing economy. Among the 3,000 consumers polled by the consultancy, 91 percent said they have paid to share car rides or bicycles. 

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Le Tote's state-ofthe-art cleaning equipment. (Photo: China Daily)

In contrast, clothing is the second least popular category, above mother care and baby products, with only 9 percent of the interviewees saying they pay for such services.

"Clothing rental could be the next big revolution for the fashion industry, after the rise of fast fashion and e-commerce," said Tang.

Tang, who worked in the fashion retailer scene for nearly two decades before helming Le Tote China, said the clothing rental market can also affect how fashion items are made.

"For years, fashion suppliers have been predicting what customers like and dislike with very little feedback or information from consumers. We then make some of the most important decisions like what colors to use and how many pieces of clothing to make based on this limited knowledge," said Tang.

She explained that with the rental business, however, fashion companies are more in touch with customers, which allows them to learn more about their preferences. This, in turn, will enable them to produce better-fitting clothes for customers.

Le Tote China, which debuted in 2017, currently has more than 1 million members and is among the leading players in the clothing rental sector. Other major rental platforms are Shanghai-based Ms. Paris and Y Closet from Beijing.

Instead of viewing the other companies as competitors, Tang said the clothing rental market is still at a nascent stage and is therefore large enough to accommodate more players.

"It's actually a good thing to see more players in the field, especially well-established brands or companies from other areas. It proves that clothing rental is a promising business prospect," she said. 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)


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