Zara’s expansion globally, and in particular entry in to the Australian market, has fuelled speculation that the fashion game is changing. Businesses not ready to compete with Zara will be wiped out as customers flock to refresh their wardrobes every fortnightly ‘Z-Day’.
If you are one of these businesses, or looking to enter the market, all may not be lost. Perhaps there is even something you develop from Zara’s model.
Today EF is looking into some simple things that a young fashion label, or even a mature fashion business, could execute relatively simply to acquire some of Zara’s secret sauce. EF has investigated three cogs with the Zara machine that could apply to your business.
1) Vertical Integration = Creative Control. Creative control = Adaptability.
It is nothing new to hear that Zara, and its parent company Inditex, operate within an almost fully integration production, distribution, and supply chain. From “The Cube” in La Coruña, northern Spain the company can co-ordinate global logistics with military like precision.
But what this really breeds is adaptability and all the positives that can bring. Ability to change if you got it wrong, responsiveness to trends, cost reductions throughout the business etc…
Now you might not have the financial firepower to simply build your own vertical integrated system overnight, but you do have you. What I mean by that is use you to foster adaptability in your model. You can do this with trust. Earning the trust of your suppliers, distributors, and other parts in your production, sales, and distribution chains can give you flexibility when it counts. We all know of the things we have done for friends, but would not do for strangers.
2) Become an Intelligence Agent
Through a complex yet fundamentally simple system designers in The Cube can receive almost real-time data from Zara’s ~2,000 stores worldwide. This information primarily comes from staff on the ground talking to customers and using simple, yet extremely effective and efficient technology to communicate this intelligence internally. This intelligence then drives adaptability, informs logistical decisions, and so fourth.
Clearly most young fashion businesses lack the capital to build such technical systems. But there are three things to consider here. First of all the goal. The goal is to obtain the best quality information from your customer base and staff as possible as quickly as possible. The second is you may not need technology per-see to achieve this. If your business is a small operation a face to face solution with some key questions may be the answer. The third is, most of the technology is either a) free, or b) relatively in-expensive. For instance you could utilise an ipad/laptop at the point of sale to jot down answers to 5 key questions that submits the answers automatically to a Google documents form.
3) Know who you are and stick to it.
A point to remember with is that Zara has a highly optimised model for them. I emphasise ‘for them’. Lightning-fast, locally-targeted designs are Zara’s specialty. Since inception in 1975 it has taken Zara the best part of 25 years to build their model, but what has surely helped in this journey is knowing from the very start what they were aiming for. If you are not sure what your goals are take some time out to figure them out. Do what you must, then tackle them with conviction.
In closing, I want the emphasise that simply trying to copy everything Zara does is not the simple answer to building a modern-day fashion powerhouse. But you can certainly learn from their mechanics. The key will be to utilise their principles, but optimise it your way.
For an interesting expose on the Zara machine and it’s impact on the world of fashion check out this video from Australia’s ABC network.