A few years ago, Shein was commonly described as the biggest fashion brand you’d never heard of. But as it reaches levels of near infamy, that title belongs to another competitor. Retail Week sheds some light on rapidly rising fast-fashion brand Cider and why it’s giving Shein a run for its money

Cider homepage Feb 2024

In three years, Cider has grown into a business with 500 staff in 14 countries

With its range of cute and colourful clothing, Cider has quickly earned the status of being one of TikTok’s coolest fashion brands, beloved by younger shoppers for its huge range and cheap prices. But while Shein and Temu dominate the conversation when it comes to Asian ecommerce retailers, Cider has been going under the radar, unless you’re under 30. 

A relatively new brand on the fashion scene, Cider deems itself to be “your closet’s happy hour” and is becoming increasingly popular with Gen Z’s trend-inspired shoppers seeking a revolving carousel of new clothes at bargain prices. Using personality traits such as ‘sexy’ or ‘elegant’ as a way to categorise products and with a pre-order business model, Cider certainly mirrors Shein in more ways than one.

But with a celebrity-level social presence of 5.1 million Instagram followers and more than 4.4 million likes on TikTok, Cider is stepping up and making a name for itself.

While the brand is secretive about its performance, as of September 2021, Cider was valued at $1bn (£790m) and most recently raised more than $130m (£103.1m) in new funding.

What is Cider?

Cidergang

Source: Cider

The retailer engages with its most loyal customers via the ‘Cidergang’ on social media

Founded in China in 2020 by four friends, Cider is a global fashion brand inspired by the “vibrant and diverse street styles” of cities such as New York, LA, Shanghai and Seoul.

Among the founders are chief executive Michael Wang, former Bloomingdale’s buyer and now chief fashion officer Fenco Lin, and former Uber Eats executive and chief marketing officer Yu Oppel. Despite having initially launched with a team of 10 just over three years ago, Cider’s rise has been meteoric and it now employs more than 500 staff across 14 countries.

With a ‘pick a mood’ way to shop its product ranges, customers can choose if they are feeling elegant, minimalist or cool, among other traits, and will be shown a curated collection of products the brand believes fits the bill – a strategy not dissimilar to Shein’s.

Taking things one step further than other fast-fashion players, Cider proudly promotes its ‘Cidergang’ community. This is a space for its most loyal customer base and ‘fans’ of the brand to use social platforms including Instagram, TikTok and Discord to discuss collections and initiatives and engage with other shoppers.

What and where does it sell?

Cider’s main warehouse is based in Guangzhou, China, and it ships to more than 130 countries. Having partnered with courier service DHL since its early days, it’s particularly popular in the US, UK, South Korea and Australia.

The brand opened four warehouses on four continents in April 2022 in a bid to speed up its shipping and return times and bring its goods closer to shoppers across the world. This followed in the footsteps of Shein, which has gone on to open new distribution centres across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Having launched during the pandemic, Cider has evolved at a rapid rate and now offers a range of clothing, footwear and accessories across womenswear and menswear in sizes XXS to 4XL, with bestselling accessories starting at £1. It also has a smaller selection of home décor with prices from £2. 

Cider pop-up New York

Source: Cider

Cider is inspired by cities such as New York where it opened a pop-up store last year

Since its launch, Cider has expanded with the launch of a Curve & Plus range and its Recycled Cider sustainable clothing collection. Despite its efforts when it comes to sustainability, including the use of biodegradable packaging for all of its deliveries, and its “smart fashion model” of pre-ordering clothing on demand, it is not the first and certainly won’t be the last fast-fashion brand to be accused of greenwashing.

Rated ‘avoid’ on sustainable and ethical fashion brand ratings platform Good On You, Cider has attracted negative attention as there appears to be little evidence provided by the brand on areas including child labour prevention, equal pay, clean water solutions and recyclable materials.

Cider says on its website that it is not a 100% zero-waste brand but questions remain around working conditions, supply chain transparency and animal welfare in the sourcing and use of wool in its materials.

The retailer says it has policies to reduce its impact on the planet and a zero-tolerance policy towards suppliers that don’t comply with a range of human rights, safety, environmental and integrity rules, as well as making efforts to improve its water usage and quality.

Keeping up with the competition 

There’s plenty of competition from major fashion players such as Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and Primark, and Cider’s product offering is not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s looping in some appealing loyalty rewards to keep shoppers hooked.  

Last April, Cider launched its membership programme offering 10 points for every 79p spent for basic members signed up to the Cider Club. Shoppers have 12 months to spend their points. Free shipping, a gift on your birthday and exclusive member-only discounts are other perks and there are discounts for downloading its app – which has over 5 million downloads to Android devices. 

Cider made its UK bricks-and-mortar debut last year with a pop-up in east London in July, showcasing its products in the city for the first time. Fenco Lin called the pop-up a “unique experience” for the brand as it tapped into the UK market. Rivals Shein and Asos also popped up in bricks-and-mortar towards the end of 2023. 

With Shein set to knock out Asos from the UK’s top 30 retailers in the next few years, it’s worth keeping a close eye on the business that’s hot on its heels.