Chinese Whispers: Refutes Layoff-related Employee Suicide Rumor, and More

In “Chinese Whispers,” we share the biggest news stories about the luxury industry in China that have yet to make it into the English language.

In this week’s edition, we discuss:

A social media rumor of a employee’s suicide,Vipshop‘s faltering business, andA Chinese buyer acquired LK Bennett.

1. denies that an employee’s suicide was related to the company’s recent mass layoffs Sohu

It’s no exaggeration to say that, China’s second-largest e-commerce player with a hefty influence in the global luxury and fashion industry, is going through its most challenging year since its inception.

On April 10, Chinese social media channel Weibo saw a trending post that stated a employee committed suicide after being laid off. Previously, media reported the e-tailer was planning to lay off more than 10,000 staff this year. Despite denying the rumor and saying publicly that it would aim to fill 15,000 vacancies soon, the post about the suicide sparked heated online discussions among the country’s netizens, who were either shocked or angry about the company’s perceived role in the incident.

On April 12, released a statement on Weibo to clarify the situation. It verified the death of the employee but said it was due to his or her long-time depression. “According to our internal investigation, this employee did not participate in JD’s housing loan plan, nor was this employee laid off,” the statement said.

Recommended ReadingJD Sells TopLife Business to Farfetch China for $50 MillionBy Yiling Pan

Chinese media outlets reported Vipshop has quietly shut down some of its businesses in recent weeks. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Chinese fashion discount site Vipshop ceases operations at Beijing subsidiary – Economic Observer (EEO) & 36 Kr

The Nasdaq-listed Chinese company Vipshop is one of the leading online fashion retailers from China that has succeeded in building its business model around discounted goods. The stock, which went public in 2012, was a Wall Street darling for a long time. But it has started to lose steam since 2018 after the company continuously failed to report positive revenue growth. This week, Chinese media outlets reported the company has quietly shut down some of its businesses.

According to a report by Economic Observer, citing technology staff working at the company, Vipshop recently ceased operations of its Beijing subsidiary. At the same time, Vipshop halted a fairly new overseas e-commerce project that targeted Chinese people living abroad.

Another Chinese publication 36Kr wrote that there are at least four reasons behind Vipshop’s struggles: 1) unsustainable growth of active users, 2) expensive logistics costs with low returns, 3) emergence of rivals, and 4) difficulties in searching for discounted fashion products.

Recommended ReadingVipshop Gains Customers, But Stock Slides on Lower-Than-Expected RevenueBy Matthew Lubin

The bankrupt British high-fashion brand LK Bennett was sold to a Chinese buyer. Photo: LK Bennett’s website

3. Chinese fashion distributor Rebecca Feng acquired LK Bennett Caijing

Byland, a company controlled by Chinese fashion distributor Rebecca Feng, bought the majority of British high fashion brand LK Bennett’s assets, which included the company’s headquarters, 21 stores and all of its concessions on April 12. The Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite brand applied for bankruptcy protection in March this year and started to look for a new owner.

Recommended ReadingWhy Chinese Investors are Buying into the Global Luxury SectorBy Jeena Sharma

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