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Zara Masters the Art of Retail | The Beast File

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Published on Jun 1, 2011

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Meet Zara: the Spanish company at the forefront of Fast Fashion, where speed and disposability are the new black.

Launched in 1975, Zara now has almost 2000 stores in 77 countries. Its parent company, Inditex, turned over $17 billion last year, helping reclusive founder Amancio Ortega -- a railway worker's son -- become the 7th richest man in the world.

Zara's HQ is a futuristic building known as "The Cube" in La Coruña, northwestern Spain. From there, staff churn out 30,000 designs a year, near carbon copies of fashion's big names.

Lightning-fast, locally-targeted designs are Zara's specialty: when Madonna played three weeks of European concerts in 2001, teenage girls went to her later shows wearing knock-offs of the outfit from her first performance.

Zara's 'vertically integrated' business model limits outsourcing, making most of its catwalk copies in-house and ensuring better quality control. When it does use cheap labour, it mostly uses poorer European countries over the developing world.

Garments hit shop floors within three weeks of design -- blitzing the industry average of six months.

Fashion used to be sold in four seasons. Zara wants you to buy for one-hundred-and-four. New clothes arrive in every store twice a week -- days known by fans as "Z Days" -- and fuel the need to turn over your wardrobe.

The brand's global distribution centre, also in Spain, moves 2.5 million items per week. Nothing remains warehoused longer than 72 hours.

Clothes are ironed in advance and packed on hangers with security and price tags affixed, saving store staff 'prime selling time'. Records are kept of any clothes tried on but not bought, sent back to Spain along with all cash register data.

Customers visit Zara on average six times more often than its competitors, causing rival stores to dread its arrival on their turf. When Zara opened a store in China last year, one industry commentator noted "it just murdered everything around it".

And when the doors of Zara's first Australian store opened in Sydney in April, 80% of the stock was snapped up within three minutes.

Shoppers might love Zara but fashion's elite are not so happy. One unnamed designer complained "we spend a fortune researching and working up ideas, then Zara comes along and walks off with them for nothing".

Zara has achieved global success with almost zero advertising, which its founder calls a "pointless distraction".

Zara. Fast, affordable, pre-packaged fashion. A business built on speed, designed for addiction.




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