Shein vs. Temu: The Cheaper and Better E-commerce Retailer in 2024

Because let’s be real, we can’t really compare for quality.

In the world of fast fashion, two sites stand out: Shein and Temu. Unfazed by the criticism they receive, the duo have capitalized on selling cheap, trendy clothing to consumers worldwide. Temu is relatively newer, having launched in September 2022, while Shein has been on the scene since 2012. Both platforms are great for cash-strapped consumers who are trying to save a few bucks while looking fabulous. 

While their service to near-stone broke consumers is much appreciated, these e-commerce sites have not had a seamless journey. Shein’s been caught up in some controversy, accused of playing fast and loose with the planet, ripping off designs and treating workers unfairly. Temu, on the other hand, got slapped with a lousy 1.5-star rating in 2022 for issues like lost packages and hitting folks with hidden charges.

Still, consumers continue to eat up their products. Here, we look at what makes Shein and Temu’s clothes so cheap and which one is better.

How are Temu and Shein so cheap?

Shein and Temu offer jaw-dropping prices—US$12 dresses, US$20 shoes and accessories for a fiver. It’s like a fashion heist, and we’re all accomplices. They are serving up affordable knockoffs of celeb looks, and we’re not complaining (well, maybe just a little). 

(Left) Outfit from Shein priced at US$6.49; (Right) Original outfit by designer Tracy Garcia priced at US$500

Image courtesy of The Guardian

With living costs skyrocketing, we’re all about saving a penny or two. The average Shein consumer spends about US$100 per month on clothing, getting a major bang for their buck. So much so that in 2022, Shein was Googled more than anyone else in the fashion game and recorded a revenue of US$23.9 billion. 

So, how are they pulling off these steal-of-a-deal prices?

1. From factory to customer

According to a Temu representative, the brand’s competitive pricing stems from connecting consumers directly with producers. Temu offers wholesale prices, reducing the impact of transportation and warehousing costs. By going straight from the factory to your doorstep, Temu cuts down on shipping and storage hassles. Those savings get passed on to consumers.

2. Shein’s on-demand model

Shein, on the other hand, boasts an on-demand model. A Shein representative said the brand utilizes a digitized supply chain, which allows it to address the gap between customer demand and merchandise supply. This approach involves testing new products in small batches, gathering immediate customer feedback and restocking in-demand items promptly. This efficient, on-demand model plays a key role in their pricing strategy.

3. Bulk shipping

Both brands leverage bulk shipping, where tens of thousands of consumers combining purchases create cost-effective bulk shipments. This efficiency in logistics allows for fair pricing while maintaining reasonable profit margins for the merchants.

So, Shein or Temu—which fares better?

Let’s review!

1. Business models

Temu operates as a marketplace featuring merchandise from independent sellers, while Shein commissions its own goods through manufacturing partners. Temu is the platform for sellers, while Shein is the seller and supplier.

2. Product variety

Shein specializes exclusively in fast fashion, while Temu has diverse offerings, spanning 30 major product categories and over 250 sub-categories, including daily necessities. However, considering only fashion, Shein has more options.

3. User experience

Temu boasts a more seamless user experience, with fewer pop-ups compared to Shein. Plus, Shein also has too many recommendations, sometimes suggesting the same product that is already in the cart. Notably, Temu has a more interesting recommendation engine that suggests cool, unique products. However, Shein excels in wishlist functionality. Users can save products they would like to buy in the future on Shein but cannot do the same with Temu.

4. Pricing

Temu takes the cake on this one—but it’s a double-edged sword. The lower prices, while attractive, can raise concerns about the quality of its products. Shein’s prices, while also affordable, seem reasonable enough for the quality of its items. 

5. Shipping speed

Shein edges out Temu with slightly faster shipping. However, this can vary depending on how many products you have in your cart. 

6. Quality and fit

The jury is still out on this one. While some feel that Shein triumphs in delivering better quality and fit, others have reported a better experience about clothing quality with Temu. Overall, however, neither company boasts the best quality of clothes.

Result: It depends…

Clearly, there is no set way to determine which is the better brand, and it appears that they know it, too. 

Recently, the rivalry between the two brands got heated when Temu filed a lawsuit against Shein in December 2023, accusing the fast-fashion giant of copyright infringement and intimidation tactics. In the filing, WhaleCo, based in Boston and functioning under the name Temu in the United States, claimed that Shein violated its intellectual property rights, engaged in false imprisonment of its merchants and employed various tactics to impede Temu’s expansion in the US.

For bargain hunters, Shein and Temu have been a blessing. However, to decide whether you are Team Shein or Team Temu, it looks like you will just have to shop and tell. 

Also read:

Header Image by Flickr and Temu’s official website

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