Planning to hire 850 workers for a new distribution center in Whitestown, Ind., this year, Shein has partnered with the Center for Education and Research in Retail at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
The company plans to hire a few hundred more employees next year, and is actively expanding its operations in the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., areas, a Shein spokeswoman said Monday. The union will give Kelley School students insights into the fashion, beauty and lifestyle e-tailer’s supply chain and understanding of the economic growth that it stands to create in Indiana.
Shein has alumni from Indiana University, on staff already including its chief data privacy officer and global head of ESG. With distribution in 150 countries, Shein currently has nearly 10,000 employees globally. Founded in 2012, company has key operation centers in Guangzhou, Singapore and Los Angeles. Shein offers 6,000 new fashion, beauty and lifestyle items daily and offers more than 600,000.
As part of the deal, the school will do an economic impact study that is expected to take place later this fall. Although the aim is to have the facility staffed by mid-summer, the economic impact study will be conducted afterward allowing for time for those workers to affect the local economy, according to the center’s director John Talbott, who allowed that “hiring at this point is a bit challenging.”
A series of fellowships are also being introduced, including ones in cybersecurity and digital analytics for customer data research. “Our long-term hope is to become more deeply involved and to give our students opportunities to go to Whitestown. We’ll probably do a trip to Singapore at some point next year,” Talbott said.
Job opportunities in management at the Whitestown facility could be another upside to the partnership. The school also has a number of international students from India, China and Korea, but it is often difficult for them to find U.S.-based retail jobs since they require H1B work visas to work Stateside and need sponsorship for the U.S. company, Talbott said. “But international students here from Asia can go back and look to find hopefully initially internships in Singapore or South China [with Shein.] And over time we also think there are opportunities for full-time positions for our students.” he said.
Aligning with major retailers is not new terrain for the Kelley School’s center. Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Target and Kohl’s have recruited its students and the school “systemically engages” with all the top retailers for in-classroom work like case studies. “Hundreds” of Indiana University students take internship positions and later full-time jobs with many domestic retailers, Talbott said. “It’s not dissimilar to that. This is just really the first time that we’ve taken on a partner that is truly international in scope. Most of the others are U.S.-based and they have some international relations as well. But their primary base is in the United States,” he said.
One aspect that distinguishes the Shein partnership is its request for some applied research, which will start with the economic impact study. Going forward, other forms of data analysis may be compiled for the retailer. “Usually economic impact studies are pretty straightforward when you are creating jobs and you are creating a lot of them. They estimate creating over 1,000 jobs and they pay really well and come with benefits. I don’t think there is much doubt that there will be a positive economic influence on it,” Talbott said.
Citing Shein’s facilities in Washington and in Los Angeles, Talbott expects that there will be continued growth in Shein’s warehousing not just in Indiana but perhaps in other areas of the country. The case study that will be developed could potentially be used for other growth plans.
As is typical with other partners, Shein has made an undisclosed donation to Indiana University’s Foundation. That contribution will be used for programming and in relation to the economic impact study. Declining to specify the amount that Shein has given, Talbott noted that in the late ’80s or early ’90s, Sears & Roebuck made a donation to the Kelley Center for about $850,000. “That is not what we are seeing right now, I can assure you. But the landscape has changed. It was a generous gift not in building a new building or anything like that, but it allows us to put in place these new programs and help our students,” he said.
“My students are quite familiar with the entity. They especially understand the interface,” he continued.
As for the brand exposure that Shein stands to gain through its involvement with the school, Talbott said that it works well in both directions. “Obviously, by putting a multimillion dollar presence in Indiana, they want to be a strong member of that community. They believe the association with the university also gives them opportunities to further engage and perhaps even do a better job of recruiting workers into the facility that they are building in Whitestown,” he said.
Last year Khloé Kardashian, Christian Siriano and Law Roach among others helped judge the “Shein x 100 Challenge.” Indiana-based designer Tendai Phillips was among the finalists.
Corporate and collegiate academic links are well-engrained in different capacities, but companies and universities can be reluctant to discuss them. Late last year Cornell University computer scientists shared research of the development of artificial intelligence framework that automatically draws underground maps that show similar fashion senses in select area. Researchers culled a myriad of images from social media for their “Discovering Underground Maps From Fashion” presentation.
However, researchers involved with the project, including two academics who are research scientists at Facebook, declined to comment, as did a Cornell spokeswoman and a Meta spokesperson.