ZARA, ZARA, and More ZARA
Nov. 17, 2023
By: Kennedi Gavin
Fashion, as an art form and a cultural phenomenon, is far from a one-size-fits-all concept. It's dynamic, ever-evolving, and deeply influenced by regional tastes, values, and trends. In this context, examining ZARA on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean - in the USA and Europe - offers a fascinating glimpse into the nuanced world of global fashion. ZARA's ability to bridge the Atlantic divide while embracing distinct characteristics in each market showcases the brand's adaptability and sensitivity to diverse consumer landscapes.
Since its inception in 1975, ZARA has been a transformative force in the world of fashion
retail. This Spanish-born brand has redefined the very essence of fast fashion, becoming a
global phenomenon in the process. As a proud member of the Inditex Group, which boasts a portfolio including renowned brands like Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Stradivarius, and Oysho, ZARA's ascent to global prominence has been nothing short of remarkable. With its distinctive approach to fashion, blending rapid product turnover, affordability, and a relentless focus on staying ahead of trends, ZARA has garnered a devoted following and set the standard for what modern fashion retail should be. Now we'll delve into the multifaceted world of ZARA, exploring its unique marketing strategies, its adaptation to different markets, and its lasting impact on the industry.
USA VS Europe
One of the most noticeable distinctions between ZARA stores in the US and Europe lies in the fashion trends on display. In the US, ZARA stores often reflect the demand for a wide range of casual, sporty, and athleisure styles. Shoppers can find an array of denim, t-shirts, and comfortable, everyday wear.
In contrast, ZARA stores in Europe, which encompass various countries with their unique fashion sensibilities, seem to present a more eclectic style. Shoppers can expect to see a blend of classic, chic, and trendy items, often influenced by European runway fashion. Below are images of luxury designer’s looks that walked in Milan Fashion Week for the Fall/Winter 2023 show. Next to them are new ZARA items within ZARA Italy that have similar styles and details resembling the designers.
Right Image of Missoni models at Milan Fashion Week taken by VOGUE
Left Image of Denium wear on ZARA Italia Website
With Filippo Grazioli, Missoni’s new designer, exposing his true personality on the runway, classic brand staples were presented in a new light. Missoni is known for zig-zag patterns, simple silhouettes, and modern interpretations of societal trends. VOGUE explains it best, the looks are “made for a rather hot proposition, yet were nonchalant in attitude.” Taking inspiration from Grazioli’s designs, ZARA embodied simple silhouettes while adding a touch of “ZARA professionalism” to the pieces. The lack of color and intensity surrounding the stings shows ZARA’s personal touch. In addition, the pieces in this simple form are high-performers for the company, as these images were found under ZARA’s “best-sellers” column.
Right Image of MSGM Model at Milan Fashion Week taken by VOGUE Italia
Left Image of Denium wear on ZARA Italia Website
Denim with spice. Massimo Giorgetti, MSGM’s designer, took casual to the next level with the redesign of a complete denim look. Known for hoodies and t-shirts, Massimo is taking MSGM to the next level. His idea was to keep “the DNA of the brand always faithful to itself, despite the evolution of the collections which today are very large and complete,” (VOGUE Italia, Massimo Giorgetti). Mixing the two distinct materials, ZARA creates the same idea: casual yet fashionable. Alterations from the original look, ZARA uses different styles, cheaper sequences, and unique sequence placement to tie the inspiration to their brand’s style; bringing sparkle and sophisticated streetwear together.
Store Design and Layout
Image of ZARA Broadway
Article by Obi Anyanwu, 2016, Courtesy of Fashion Network
The ambiance and layout of ZARA stores in the USA and Europe diverge as well. Stores tend to be more spacious and shopper-friendly in the US, reflecting the culture of convenience and ample retail space. There may also be a correlation between the number of shoppers and the number of stores within the country. Limited locations cause high traffic creating the need for large amounts of space within the store. The New York City, Soho location (Broadway #503, New York, NY 10012), for example, stretches across unit 503 to unit 511; taking up the entire block. Not only width-wise, but the height of the store, creates floors and separation, increasing space. The U.S. is more spacious and gracious with business expansion and property licensing’ it’s easier for the brand to integrate and design locations to their liking within the U.S. where space is not truly an issue.
Image of Florence, Italy - City Center
Commissioned by Future Plus for Page and Moy, Courtesy of Behance.net
In Europe, where history and tradition are intertwined with fashion, ZARA stores may have a more boutique-like feel, with some outlets even situated in charming old buildings. This difference in the in-store design reflects the reverence for fashion in Europe, where shopping is often considered a cultural experience. Integrated in between culture and history, the store locations are limited in space and size depending on the city and location. Specifically in Florence, Italy, ZARA is located within the City center. Although it is alongside other retail shops and businesses, the density of the streets and the town caused the store to be smaller and more claustrophobic. It’s built upwards to attempt to make up for it. However, the mass amounts of retail opportunities and competitive alternatives make the small store more ideal. With added options, locals and tourists tend to choose more Italian local shops rather than the chain brand.
Where the two groups merge is when it comes to seasonal variations. The timing of seasons may be different depending on the region, but the brand does offer quite a selection for all extreme weather types. Prioritization on specific seasonal clothing such as winter coats and summer attire based on local weather patterns, may be present, regardless, the integration of fashion and style is never forgotten.
For example, ZARA Paris during October displayed coats, jackets, jumpers, turtlenecks, and much more, with the intent for customers to feel comfortable and warm with the autumn winds. On the contrary, ZARA Rome still had short sleeves, long skirts, and vests out due to the humidity still upon us going into this weird global warming-induced autumn.
Americans and Europeans have different fashion priorities. Within American culture, comfort, warmth, and/or optimization often come first; sometimes it even overpowers style completely. In Europe, where style triumphs over seasons the stores have more distinct selections to embrace a broader spectrum of styles, catering to diverse climates and cultural nuances. Europeans also feel the need to dress for the season regardless of temperature. In Florence, for example, it will be 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celsius) and sunny, but Italians will still be out in their fall coats. During these times, it's easy to spot the tourists or students abroad as they are wearing shorts and t-shirts.
Pricing and Location
Pricing is another area where ZARA adapts to regional economic conditions as well as store location variations. “There is one Zara store for every 3.4 million people in the United States…Zara had 98 stores in the US by January 31, 2023” (Adam Gofton, portfolio manager at Mackenzie Investments, which holds shares in Inditex, RTE, 2023). In the USA, pricing is often competitive, catering to a consumer base that appreciates affordability without sacrificing style; “appreciates” being the keyword. Within this domain, the brand has much creative freedom to price as they choose.
Before going abroad, others told me to shop and purchase anything and everything I wanted because the pricing was so much cheaper in Europe. I was naive and didn’t believe it until I began my semester in Florence. “An analysis by RBC of 40 Zara garments found prices are at least 60% higher in the US and Mexico versus Spain” (RTE, 2023). Maybe it’s the European tagging process, where tags include city tax or the lack of material importing, but prices are significantly cheaper. I’ve frequented ZARA Florence and purchased many items that would’ve cost me way more in the U.S. For example, I purchased a black thick wool jacket for 50 euros. The price at ZARA Chicago, for something similar, is $60 plus tax at purchase.
In contrast, European ZARA stores may exhibit more varied pricing strategies, taking into account the diverse economic circumstances in different countries. For Europe, the target markets are tourists and middle-class individuals who can’t afford luxury brands. While some European stores may offer more luxury items with lower price points, others maintain affordability, in line with local expectations. With the hopes of being the second opinion in place of luxury brands, ZARA has put into place competitive pricing models to allow for the brand to appear high-end within the fast-fashion industry. They have adapted to a pricing model that sits below lower-end luxury brands but above low-cost companies and luxury second-hand stores.
Another point may be due to the number of stores in Europe compared to the U.S. due to ZARA being of Spanish origin. “[There is] one [ZARA store] for every 600,000 in France and one for every 150,000 in Spain” (Adam Gofton, RTE, 2023). With larger control and domain, the European district has a higher opportunity to make profits, causing the pricing to have the ability to be lower as more stores over the domain.
The Winning Marketing Strategy
Within marketing, the traditional mechanism to analyze a brand’s strategy is broken down into the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For ZARA, it has redefined how the brand is structured and operates. The “4Es” as it likes to call them, are “Experience, Exchange, Evangelism, and Everyplace.” The sole goal revolves around the customer’s needs and wants. At the heart of ZARA's marketing strategy lies its revolutionary approach to fast fashion. While traditional fashion retailers adhere to set schedules for releasing new collections, ZARA has revolutionized this practice by introducing an agile and flexible supply chain. The brand constantly replenishes its inventory with new and on-trend designs on an x basis. This unique approach enables ZARA to keep pace and lead with rapidly changing fashion trends and ensures that customers find fresh, desirable items with each visit to a ZARA store. The ability to swiftly move from design concept to store shelf in a matter of weeks has allowed for dominance within the industry. As the fashion industry continues to evolve, ZARA's supply chain serves as an enduring model of adaptability and excellence in the field. ZARA seamlessly blends an upscale in-store experience with a robust online presence, transcending traditional retail boundaries. Its
boutiques feature clean, minimalist interiors and attentive staff, creating an atmosphere of exclusivity. Minimalism does not just extend to the garments and design of the store but to the customer service of the sales associates, who are trained to contribute when asked but to mostly display little to no interruption to customer enjoyment. Unlike Zara, engagement within other brands can feel intense and ingenuine, as sales associates come up to customers and continuously ask if they need assistance.
Image of ZARA Italia home page - Language: Italian
In the digital realm, ZARA excels with user-friendly online platforms. Whether you're in the U.S. or Italy, their online website will register and automatically change for you. In addition, home languages will alter and can be personalized to fit any individual. To resonate with tech-savvy consumers and global fashion enthusiasts, ZARA has also looked to TikTok and Instagram (as their main platforms) to reach and influence more of the fashion community. This dual approach elevates ZARA's mastery of the modern fashion landscape from the perspective of a fast fashion brand.
Sustainability vs. Fast Fashion
Because of customer vigilance and societal standards expected of the fashion industry, ZARA has demonstrated a heightened commitment to sustainability within its business framework in recent years. This strategic shift aligns with the fashion industry's increasingly vigilant stance on environmental and ethical issues. Not only ZARA, but other brands such as Gucci, who won the 2022 Climate Action Award, COACH with the creation of COACHTOPIA, and so on.
Of note, ZARA has been proactively integrating sustainable materials, including organic cotton and recycled fabrics, into their product lines. This choice has significantly reduced the environmental footprint of their offerings. ZARA has set ambitious goals, aiming to ensure that every item in its inventory is crafted from sustainable fabrics by 2025. Some of the goals include (1) 100% linen and polyester from preferent sources, (2) 25% reduction of water consumption in their supply chain, and (3) reaching three million people in our supply chain with their Workers in the Centre strategy. (Inditex Sustainability Page)
Additionally, the brand is diligently enhancing the energy efficiency of its stores and advocating for garment recycling through designated in-store collection points. Transparent business practices are a hallmark of ZARA's sustainability drive, which includes sharing comprehensive information about its manufacturing facilities and the measures undertaken to improve working conditions. These sustainability endeavors by ZARA underscore a dedicated and responsible approach to fashion, positioning them as a leader in the industry and setting a precedent for further progress.
Regardless of location, ZARA has done an excellent job of presenting a strong footing across domains. ZARA's agile supply chain stands as a paragon of innovation and adaptability in the fast fashion industry. Its ability to swiftly respond to changing fashion trends and customer preferences has not only set new standards but also reshaped the way we perceive and experience fashion retail. The brand's commitment to a continuous stream of fresh designs, its flexible production process, and its global distribution network have made it a household name worldwide, appealing to a diverse array of fashion-conscious consumers. The simplistic design, frequent societal inspiration, and customer-driven decision-making all contribute to an elevated customer experience, creating a sense of discovery that keeps patrons returning to ZARA stores. This, coupled with a localized approach that caters to regional tastes, solidifies ZARA's position as a brand that understands and values its customers.
Moreover, ZARA's commitment to sustainability through reduced waste and responsible sourcing adds another layer of resonance with today's eco-conscious consumers. The brand has masterfully aligned agility, affordability, and a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.
As the fashion industry continues to evolve in response to the ever-changing demands and values of its consumers, ZARA's journey through its agile supply chain illustrates that excellence is not merely about keeping up with the times but consistently leading and adapting to meet the diverse and dynamic needs of its global audience. In the end, ZARA's definition of simple, sophisticated, and innovative, is not just a model for the fashion industry; it's a testament to what can be achieved when customer satisfaction is at the heart of a brand's identity.
Kennedi Gavin is in her 3rd year at NYU. She is studying business at Stern with concentrations in marketing and management with a minor in social entrepreneurship. Her interests include fashion, art, reading, writing, travel, and sports. Currently, she is writing a novel, and if you were to ask her what her favorite song is she would say “Bongos” by Cardi B (feat. Megan Thee Stallion).