A nearly-completed distribution center for fashion attire, apparel and beauty products in Whitestown will soon give select students from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business a unique opportunity to learn about global retail and e-commerce. The Center for Education and Research in Retail at IU and online fashion e-retailer SHEIN have entered a partnership to create fellowships for students. The company, which does business in approximately 150 countries, relies on a digital supply chain to control costs and ship quickly.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, center director John Talbott said the relationship will provide opportunities to retail-focused students on business beyond U.S. borders.
“When the opportunity to connect with SHEIN evolved over the last six months, it was really interesting to me because I want our kids to have the opportunity to learn about retail not only at the domestic level, but also internationally,” said Talbott.
SHEIN was founded in China, but it now has three operational hubs in Los Angeles, Singapore and Guangzhou.
Talbott says SHEIN relies heavily on social media platforms, like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, for marketing to its target audience: female Gen Z’ers.
“SHEIN, in addition to being an international company, has a unique interface in terms of the way students can acquire information about product and then acquire the product itself. And that makes it interesting as well because technology is so important in retail right now and this company is utilizing it in a way that’s different from anyone else,” explained Talbott.
Mark Aitken, vice president of U.S. public affairs for SHEIN, says the partnership stemmed from an initial plan for economists at the Kelley School of Business to conduct an economic impact study once the central Indiana facility becomes operational. From that, the partnership evolved.
“It’s a multifaceted approach that we’re taking to this partnership,” said Aitken. “We’re looking at an initial fellowship… opportunities with the students there to work directly with SHEIN professionals…to give the students a real flavor for what a company like SHEIN is all about, and how we’ve been operating and approaching the larger retail space for us.”
Last April, SHEIN announced plans to establish a 650,000-square-foot distribution center in Whitestown, which will serve as the company’s main hub in the Midwest. However, Aitken tells Inside INdiana Business that plans are already in the works to potentially expand the Boone County facility up to one million square feet.
SHEIN says it plans to employ about 850 workers at the site by the end of 2022.
“As you start looking at just really what those opportunities are especially with working with a company like ours, it’s clear that over the coming years we’ll have a lot of opportunities there in the region,” said Aitken.
Aitken says the construction of the warehouse is complete and now crews are adding storage racks and other equipment needed for the movement of product. SHEIN expects to be operational in the third quarter of this year.
In terms of educational opportunities, Aitken says the company this week posted internship opportunities to examine the company’s environmental, sustainability and government sector.
“ESG is a very topical issue and has been for quite some time. Understanding how that fits into an operation like SHEIN will be critical,” said Aitken, who adds it provides a critical learning opportunity for students.