Timing is everything when it comes to going public, and Vancl.com may be hoping to tap the equity market too early. At the very least, it's definitely too late.

Vancl is a fast-growing e-tailer in China, specializing in apparel. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Vancl is already in talks with underwriters to go public by year's end.

China and e-tail used to be hot ingredients when combined in a blender. These days, it's only the recipe for a toxic smoothie.

Mecox Lane (Nasdaq: MCOX) went public at $11 less than eight months ago. It has gone on to shed more than two-thirds of its value. The apparel retailer championing its online platform has been a dud. Last week's quarterly earnings report was disastrous. Net revenue slipped as its quarterly loss more than doubled.

The news is just as bleak when you key in on the apparel industry itself in China. Zuoan Fashion (NYSE: ZA) and China Xiniya Fashion (NYSE: XNY) have gone public over the past year. Both Chinese clothing distributors are trading for well below their IPO prices.

Vancl still hasn't filed, so we don't have a glimpse of its actual financials. They're going to have to be fantastic for underwriters to find willing buyers given the minefield we've seen with the apparel makers and e-tailers that have gone public in recent months.

There's a general sense of apathy with investors when it comes to the Web-based retail of physical goods, just as we find closer to home for nearly every company outside of Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN).

Margins are tight when it comes to online merchants. It doesn't get any better in China, where e-commerce is more about price than convenience.

Online bookseller E-Commerce China Dangdang (NYSE: DANG) is that rare Chinese e-tailer that is trading for more than its IPO price, though its stock has shed nearly half of its value since peaking in January. Dangdang is growing its revenue, expanding its offerings, and is profitable. However, it's hard for investors to get overly excited for a company sporting net margins in the 1% to 2% range.

It also may start becoming more expensive to succeed in e-tail. Alibaba's Taobao -- the popular consumer-facing online marketplace -- opened a showroom on Friday. The retail space showcases furniture and home theater electronics, giving potential buyers a way to check out big-ticket items before placing their orders.

Is this the future of apparel e-tail in China, too? After all, snapshots of clothing, shoes, and accessories may not be enough for Vancl.

Vancl's only been around since 2007, so it's not as if the company could've gone public when Chinese stocks were hot. However, in this kind of climate, it may be best to wait until the bad taste in the mouth of investors after buying into the IPOs of Mecox Lane, Zuoan, and Xiniya Fashion is forgotten.

More than 40 Chinese companies went public on stateside exchanges last year. Fewer will likely make their debut this year. Are you buying or avoiding Chinese IPOs? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's high-margin online stocks for a long time, but he's been burned by the low-margin ones. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story, except for Xiniya Fashion. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.