To those who have the patience to navigate the sprawling stores, Zara is a spot to score a no-fail on-trend look for a job interview, event, or date – and one that looks more expensive than it is. The longtime brand is a go-to of both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle and continues to remain relevant in a brutally competitive retail market.
The key to the success of the beloved fast-fashion retailer is speed. It’s about doing whatever it takes to stay ahead of the trends and paying attention to what the customer in its varying markets wants and needs. At Zara’s global headquarters in Arteixo, Spain, over 300 designers work to keep things constantly new, trend-forward, and – most importantly – as speedy as possible. It all comes down to turnaround time.
New items are delivered to Zara’s 2,238 stores worldwide twice a week. If it sounds like a lot of pressure on the designers, it is.
Refreshingly, Zara hires designers of all ages to account for a range of inputs, and strays from a hierarchical approach to business, often favouring a more bottom-up approach. The designers work with local sales managers in its markets to determine what’s resonating with customers and what isn’t.
Compared to its mall staple competitors, the Zara team designs, produces, distributes, and sells its collection in just four weeks.
Most other brands would take around six months to get new designs into stores. Naturally, this keeps in-store stock levels low and loyal shoppers frequent thanks to the sense of urgency that comes with knowing the items are limited. More styles – as opposed to a higher quantity of the same styles – means more variety, catering to a range of tastes. It also helps the exclusivity factor — nobody wants to show up at an event wearing the same dress or shirt as a handful of other people.
While Zara designers have faced scrutiny in the past for mimicking high-fashion runway looks, as Business Insider reports, Zara’s designers have expanded their scope of inspiration in recent years to include social media – Instagram specifically and heavily.
The social media influencer particularly has the power to, well, influence, trends and designs in a pretty massive way.
For all the inspiration offered, Instagram has changed the game for Zara designers in that there is now so much information – likely an overwhelming amount – to sort through. But they make it happen. And quick.
Another area where Zara excels is in its customer-centric approach to marketing. In a piece for Forbes written earlier this year, Pamela Danziger recognizes that – unlike competitor H&M – Zara has evolved to “four Es” of marketing (a stray from the traditional “four Ps”): Experience, Exchange, Evangelism, Every Place – each with the consumer front and centre.
Customer feedback is regularly reported back to headquarters and brought to the attention of designers – an impressive initiative for the largest retail brand in the world.
Zara is historically known to allocate little to no dollars for advertising and have refrained from the high-budget, splashy, celeb-filled campaigns of other brands.
According to Zara execs, the brand’s success comes from word-of-mouth advertising (as in, “I love that dress, where did you get it?”). That’s not to say that Zara isn’t strategic on the marketing front: most of its stores, for example, are located in close proximity to high-end retailers.
It’s against Zara’s rules to allow employees to be quoted in news articles, but we do know that in-store employees receive a discount of 25% off everything including sale items and say the best time to hit the store is before noon to avoid crowds.
Generally, Zara sounds like a decent place to work and for the resume.
In 2017, Zara was ranked 24th on the Interbrand – a global brand consultancy – list of best global brands.
In a time when dozens of influential retailers are closing up shop, Zara shows no sign of slowing down. Its stores in 88 countries worldwide remain busy and its online presence continues to grow. Most recently, the brand made headlines with the launch of an affordable collection of 12 matte lipsticks just in time for the holidays.
Featured image: Instagram/@kaffeden