VIPShop, the Chinese discount e-commerce site, launched an IPO roadshow earlier this week in the hope that it’ll lead to listing in the US, aiming to hit the New York Stock Exchange on the ‘VIPS’ ticker. But there are already rumors today in the industry that the effort has come to nothing, and that it’s unlikely to secure the necessary backing of investors and underwriters.
VIPShop’s prospectus focuses on its leverage in online discounts, and how China’s huge amount of medium-sized cities (so-called tier-2 or tier-3 cities) means that mid- to low-range discount retailers have a sure-fire audience. In this respect, VIPShop compares itself to successful US bricks-and-mortar chains such as T.J.Maxx and Outlets, but adds that the lack of such stores on China’s streets means that it has the market cornered in e-commerce. Rivals such as Vancl, Tmall, and numerous other affordable clothing-oriented sites would beg to differ.
But a partner at GSR Ventures, Zhu Xiaohu, let slip on his microblog page that things were not looking too good for the VIPShop proposal, saying that “the IPO window” is probably not open to the e-commerce site. He later added, as he was a party to the discussions, that it’s “still very challenging. [VIPShop is] too aggressive on price range.”
Others in the industry also rate VIPShop’s chances as slim – partly because the global economic outlook is still a bit grim, but mainly because the e-commerce site’s profit margins are pretty thin and some of its logistics costs are reportedly twice that of other leading sites in this sector in China.
Despite being badged a specialist luxury online mall by some (and as inferred by its name), VIPShop actually sells items – usually at a useful discount – from a lot of hum-drum clothing and home electronics brands. As such, the site is not really comparable with boutique e-tailers from China such as The Luxury Club or IhaveU, which both focus on couture fashion, and attracted serious investment from VCs last year.
In the past, VIPShop pulled in funding from DCM, which also invested in other specialist e-commerce sites in the country. Here are a selection of slides from its IPO prospectus:
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