Zara is a Spanish high-street retailer founded in 1975 and currently operates over 1,800 stores worldwide.
Over the years, Zara has developed a reputation for itself as going against the grain of usual industry standards, they spend no money on advertising, instead opting to use revenue to open new stores. It is thought Zara needs just two weeks from developing an idea to getting it on sale in stores, which is non-standard practice in the fashion retail industry as it usually takes 6 months to develop a trend or a new line of clothing.
Zara has been described as a “fashion imitator” working closely to a pattern of their customers desires rather than what is on-trend elsewhere in the fashion industry. They produce materials to customer expectations at a lower cost than the usual retailer. This, coupled with their maverick business practices, makes Zara one of the most innovative retailers in the fashion market. This is something that has also been levelled at companies such as ASOS and Missguided.
The Global Market
Since opening in 1975, Zara has firmly claimed its fixed place in the global market, with many other retailers following suit and thus cementing themselves as competitors. If we take a look at competitors in the international market, it’s clear to see why Zara stands out as a unique proprietor of fashion.
US company The Gap sells more or less the same range of merchandise that Zara does with the same target audience (teens to older adults), but with more casual and less trendy clothing lines. H&M broke out of their homeland of Sweden and strategizes internationally by opening a store country by country, whilst Zara holds the capability of multi-tasking globally. British retailer Topshop could be a fierce competitor, but its limited international availability and slightly higher prices prevents it from being a contender anywhere other than Britain (and perhaps it’s select second homes internationally).
Zara combines a rather rare unity in their focus on fashion and customer service simultaneously. Their assets go through a changing cycle quicker than any other retailer on the market. This allows them to produce fresh lines within just a couple of weeks, and over 10,000 lines each year. Attributing to this strategy is their hiring process; Zara recruits designers that work with innovation, but can also make swift decisions to contribute to the fast-paced nature of its business. Designers are also encouraged to keep regular contact with store managers, which again, is something that is never seen in other retailers on the high-street.
Zara’s business strategy has built the company into a concept of its own making, swimming against the tide of what is regulated in the fashion industry, bending the rules and making their own up along the way.
As mentioned before, Zara’s practices of quick clothing line-turnarounds give Zara an efficiency with their retail environment like no other; store managers and sales associates globally convey messages to designers in Spain regarding what customer preference is for whatever season it is at the time, using sales figures to determine which trends have sold the highest volume in the shortest period of time.
Additionally, Zara defies the idea of “stock holding” which is followed by the majority of competitors, thus saving money and displaying practices of cost-efficiency. Most retailers will buy and hold stock, whilst Zara works solely on a need-to-produce basis which means little stock waste or damage occurs.