Let’s face it, online shopping is fun. We’re sure you can remember a time when you made an impulsive online purchase. Your mood is instantly lifted, stress melts away and you’re suddenly full of hope for the future whilst you eagerly wait for your goods to arrive.
The season of spending is upon us; Black Friday, Christmas, and the inevitable slump between boxing day and new year’s, a time when we’re constantly bombarded by deals, bargains, and special buys. The temptation to click ‘checkout’ gets even harder to resist. When spending their hard-earned money, no one wants to be ripped off, mis-sold, or taken advantage of, and it’s come to our attention that not a lot of us know about the phenomenon of dropshipping that is slowly taking over some of the biggest online retail spaces and it is not only is it contributing to fast fashion but it is also seriously misleading consumers.
It’s a form of online retail business which sells wholesale items to a consumer, offering a range of items from home décor to appliances and fashion to jewellery. In short, they don’t make or design any of their products, instead, they purchase cheap units in bulk from a wholesaler, hike up the price, then sell them back to consumers. These businesses often don’t even physically hold stocks for products and just get the wholesaler to ship products to customers.
Painting themselves as small businesses and local boutiques whilst selling sub-par goods at triple or quadruple the wholesale price, it’s regarded by many as a scam, on par with pyramid schemes and MLM’s.
Weird right? But in theory, it’s an entirely innocent business strategy that many people use as a successful source of income. The real issue with this practice is that there is a worrying rise of boutiques using dropshipping but sneakily making themselves seem like they’re the ones who make an item; being dishonest about their supply chain. Painting themselves as small businesses and local boutiques whilst selling sub-par goods at triple or quadruple the wholesale price, it’s regarded by many as a scam, on par with pyramid schemes and MLM’s. Being pushed to entrepreneurs as an accessible get-rich-quick scheme through cutting corners and forgoing quality control. There are even YouTube adverts with Joe Rogan-Esque men shouting about earning six figures a month from dropshipping.
Various full-time Depop vendors have been accused of selling dropshipping items and promoting them as hand-made and one of a kind, leading the customers to believe that they are supporting a small, one-person business.
Earlier this year an online fashion boutique that rose to prominence for their Y2K knits, printed jeans, and accessories, came under fire from sharp-eyed social media users for being a dropshipper. Despite claiming to be a ‘globally minded’ brand that uses a pre-order system to reduce overproduction, they’ve been called out multiple times for the shoddy quality of their items. Users began finding the exact same items being sold by the site for upwards of £30 on their website for a fraction of the price on wholesale shopping sites such as Ali Express. According to internet users, the fashion retailer seems to be copying designs from small independent and luxury designer brands. The phenomenon has not only been spotted on online multi-sites though. Various full-time Depop vendors have been accused of selling dropshipping items and promoting them as hand-made and one of a kind, leading the customers to believe that they are supporting a small, one-person business. Depop has taken measures to avoid dropshipping by banning any sellers that are reported as dropshippers by users, but the issue is not that easy to fix as the dropshipping sellers put effort into their small business facade.
Look out for brands who seem to constantly be holding sales and discounts ‘for a limited time only’, have long estimated delivery times, and offer deals such as buy one get free or buy three for the price of two. Do your research, if something looks too good to be true or simply doesn’t feel right then dig a little deeper. Does the design remind you too much of something else you’ve seen online? Double-check if the design is copied, you might be ripping off a small designer by accident. Can the company give me a clear answer on where and how their stuff is designed and manufactured? If the answer is no then you’re most likely dealing with a dropshipper.
How can one navigate being undercut by false companies who are offering similar items at a seemingly lower price, and even going as far as to completely copy designs from other ethical brands
But if you do really like an item, there’s no shame in that. Put those research skills to use and beat them at their own game, find it elsewhere for a reasonable price, you might have to wait a little longer to receive it but at least you’re not supporting businesses who thrive on dishonesty.
But what does this growing trend mean for the fashion industry, more specifically small businesses who actually design, produce and distribute their own products? How can one navigate being undercut by false companies who are offering similar items at a seemingly lower price, and even going as far as to completely copy designs from other ethical brands?
“If you like a so-called ‘dropshipped’ item go to the source. A genuine small business and designer screams about their process. Their universe is their product.”
Small businesses use their online shops as an accessible platform to bring their product to a wider audience. Dropshippers almost use it in the same way except they play on the anonymity of the internet to cultivate a false identity almost. You could go as far as to say it’s invalidating the hard work, money, and care actual independent brands put into their digital presence. And while yes, dropshippers haven’t quite taken over the entire online market, the more people they con, the more the market will grow.
So, the moral of the story? When a market, item, or trend is hot and profitable it’s going to attract shady characters with money on their mind, that’s life. The best way to deal with dropshippers is to disregard them completely, cut them off and invalidate their entire game plan. If you like a so-called ‘dropshipped’ item go to the source. A genuine small business and designer screams about their process. Their universe is their product. If you don’t mind spending a bit more on something good quality, ethically made, and actually genuine, then treat yourself, support real designers and beware of dropshippers!