Happy Weekend ladies and gents, bringing you another nugget of news from the fashion world on my Friday Afternoon series this week!
A few days ago while cruising on businessofashion.com (a daily must read for anyone in or interested in the fashion industry), an article caught my eye about Zara’s parent company Inditex. What drew me in was not the title, because lord knows we have enough articles out there about Zara, but the image of this high tech control room-like office that’s more fitting for a futuristic military command center than a intelligence central for a retail company.
BoF was invited to get a rare inside glimpse of Inditex on location in Spain and Morocco, and this article is eye opening. Most average consumers have an idea of just how large of an empire these fashion fashion chains can be and the negative impact they can have on our planet, but never have I read anything with this much insight into the operations of Inditex and I felt compelled to share my personal observations as well.
The secret sauce to Inditex’s success
As an apparel designer and thus having been on the other side of the fence, I’ve always had a hard time putting my finger on Zara; it’s like a faceless organization that’s ludicrously well oiled and far too efficient for the average fast fashion retailer. Employees never bother you, they don’t necessarily go out of their way to make your shopping experience better, but are always omnipresent with their modified iPods to find your size for you. Their stores resemble high fashion boutiques and each location, even in different countries, offers the same robotic experience. Their website is clean and easy to shop, don’t get me started on H&M’s or F21’s, and your orders always come neatly packaged with tissue paper. And unlike even their competition keeping up with trends, they ARE the trends; they know what you want before you do. Everything is so neat and zipped up that it’s creepy. After reading this article though it all makes sense.
Inditex takes an analytic approach to the fashion business; they exist to serve the customer and takes unconventional paths to achieve that. They invest into technology and software that allows them, in real time, to measure quantitative and qualitative data as to what people are buying and how much. To ultimately compliment this data, they have “proximity sourced” facilities within the supply chain that allow them to action off the information they mine.
While conventional high street retailers pre-commit about 60 percent of their production, Inditex plans only about 15 percent in advance — the rest is made in response to customer feedback. Inditex can design, manufacture and deliver product to the shop floor, all in three weeks. – BoF
Mind blown! To give you a better idea why this is so shocking, the company I used to work with thought 2 months from design to floor set was fast. For a more traditional retailer, the road from when a product gets designed to when it set is long and laborious, and often fraught with complications. We design, talk about our palette, commit to buying the fabric, commit to dyeing the fabric and trims, fits, etc..it just goes on and on, until months later we decide the item is no longer in trend and drop the whole thing. Our core regular production cycle involves me designing pieces to set in stores about a year later.
There’s no money to be made if there isn’t a planet to do business on, though
Then comes sustainability. When a company is this massive, it’s simply impossible to have no impact and as one of the largest retailers on Earth, they certainly have the responsibility to minimize such damages.
With huge scale comes huge challenges. Inditex’s operations are now so large that every action the company takes has the potential to have vast negative impact on the planet. If every Inditex store accidentally left on a light overnight, it would add up to almost nine years of wasted electricity. – BoF
But because they produce to demand, this in turn reduces the quantity of unsold items and minimizes the waste footprint overall.
“I cannot afford waste. I need to secure that my production must be demanded. In the first moment, it’s more expensive. But the margins are lower at the end of the cycle,” said Jesús Echevarría, Inditex’s chief communications officer. -BoF
And all this is made possible by that high tech data command center. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that droves and droves of clothing are bought and chucked at an alarming rate every year.
“Here you can control the whole world,” [Echevarría] murmured, as we toured the company’s facilities. If a light is left on in Zara’s Shanghai store, someone in this room knows about it. -BoF
But now it all makes sense. The mechanical responsiveness so tangible that a mere shopper (albeit a knowledgeable one) like me can feel it in the air of every single Zara store. An experience so carefully crafted and controlled that shoppers get addicted to it without even knowing. Although this should come as no surprise; logically speaking, there’s no other way that a company can grow into what Inditex is today without doing something unusual and extraordinary.
Profits at Zara are up to four times higher than other apparel retailers. -BoF
Yea, I’d bet.
I can finally define the face of Zara, or rather, a lack thereof – the image of that gorgeous data center will forever be ingrained in my subconsciousness every time I browse through their racks. Which was, incidentally, quite recent:
Inditex – Agile Fashion Force by BoF; a must read. In order to strive for consumer responsibility we must first be educated, and there’s no better place to start than this insightful and informative piece into the largest retailer on Earth.
Linking up with Lifestyle by Joules.
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