Temu and Shein, the platforms that drive up the price of air freight: “We have never experienced anything like this before”

Temu and Shein, the platforms that drive up the price of air freight: “We have never experienced anything like this before”
Temu and Shein, the platforms that drive up the price of air freight: “We have never experienced anything like this before”

These are two names that are now going around the world. Shein and Temu are two “Chinese” online commerce giants (Shein was created in China but has its head office in Singapore) which are being singled out more than ever by environmental associations and certain public authorities. In question ? Their particularly polluting economic model and their encouragement of overconsumption. We call this fast fashion, or even ultra fast fashion. Consumers buy clothes at knockdown prices, made on the other side of the world, and often of poor quality, which they wear only fleetingly. Before succumbing to the next fashionable outfit.

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In addition to inexpensive clothing, Temu, which is a “marketplace” unlike Shein which sells its own products, specializes in the sale of gadgets of all kinds. From knife sharpeners to car seat covers and stuffed animals, you can find a little bit of everything (and anything) for a few euros. “Buy like a billionaire”, promises the platform, to make its customer understand that everything is now accessible to them. But we have to go quickly. The consumer is put under pressure during limited-time sales: a countdown reminds him that he must buy quickly if he does not want to miss this golden opportunity. And it works. Pinduoduo, Temu’s parent company, saw sales increase 241% last year, to $13.25 billion.

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Note that Temu is aimed at a wider audience, whereas Shein targets younger consumers. But the two platforms have one thing in common: they love to transport their products by air. “Both Shein and Temu have a continued thirst for air freight”specialist Wenwen Zhang recently explained to our colleagues at Forbes.” We have never experienced anything like this before”.

More expensive than sea transport, passage by cargo planes is obviously much faster. It is estimated that it takes only a few days to deliver a parcel shipped by air from China to a European individual’s door, whereas transport by ship can take five weeks. And the goal is there. Chinese sellers want to respond instantly to customers, who are particularly sensitive to this immediacy. And obviously willing to sometimes pay more for delivery costs alone than for the product itself.

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The biggest trend impacting air freight right now is not the Red Sea, but Chinese e-commerce companies like Shein or Temu.”

These fast shipments also make it possible to avoid building up expensive stocks in their preferred markets of the two Chinese giants, namely Europe and the United States. The rise of Shein and Temu is therefore shaking up transport in the sky. Air freight prices have doubled since 2019 between China and most Western countries and have been rising sharply since April, creating tensions in a sky already saturated with goods. “The biggest trend impacting air cargo right now is not the Red Sea (geopolitical tensions in the region have an impact on maritime transport, leading to an increase in cargo in the air, Editor’s note) but Chinese e-commerce companies like Shein or Temu “, said Basile Ricard, the director of operations for China at Bolloré Logistics, a few weeks ago.

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According to a recent Reuters study, Shein, which represented around a fifth of the global fast-fashion market, would have shipped 5,000 tonnes of fashion items per day around the world by air in 2023. equivalent of 108 Boeing 777, a wide-body aircraft from the American manufacturer. Temu is just below, with 4,000 tonnes delivered daily. For comparison, Apple would “only” ship 1,000 tons of products per day by plane.

Last year, the two companies reportedly delivered 600,000 packages from China daily to the United States. This creates a growing trade imbalance: crammed with goods departing from airports in the Middle Kingdom, planes only return very lightly loaded to China. Fast fashion today charters a third of the world’s long-distance cargo planes.

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