Zara is one of my favorite retail stores. I love the clothes and the prices. I’ve found pieces that have lasted me for years and that I love; I also have pieces that feel like they’ll fall apart after a few washes. So is the nature of fast fashion.
The New York Times recently featured an in-depth look into Zara and its business model that emphasizes fast turnaround on its clothing, which is guided by customers’ buying patterns. What sells and doesn’t sell determines the inventory. And new inventory comes in weeks, rather than months. Quality control is maintained despite such fast production rates because manufacturing is kept close to the home base in Spain in countries in North Africa, Portugal and others.
According to the article and the accompanying video, Zara has been able to outpace competitors, and in a unique turn that has defied Spanish economic trends, grown its revenues and opened more stores.
Zara is only one of several brands under its parent group, Inditex. Other brands include Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear and Uterqüe. With the exception of Zara, I’ve only seen these other stores in Spain. And each has its own personality. Bershka, Stradivarius, and Pull & Bear seem to be geared for a younger, more casual crowd. Oysho carries sleepwear and undergarments. Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe are the high-end, older cousins to Zara.
I know there are arguments against the waste that high fashion can create and it can feed into a consumerist culture. But I think Zara stands in different playing field than a store like H&M. I love H&M for its variety, but the quality is not always that great. You get what you pay for, I guess. Zara sometimes doesn’t have the best quality either, but they usually always have great pieces that make it easy to be fashionable.
Zara’s secret to success? Rather than innovating in products, it has innovated in process. The process of creating clothes and getting it to market quickly in response to what customers buy. It’s a business model that seems to work. Case in point, one of its customers–me. I love dropping into Zara and looking through the racks. They have a great supply of basics and also interesting pieces with a unique touch that elevates the garment beyond just a plain shirt. So, Zara, as far as I’m concerned, keep up the good work.