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Zara – the Most Successful High Street Retailer

Spanish clothing and accessories brand Zara has been around since 1975. Starting from a single store selling more affordable lookalikes of high-end products, the company has grown to over 2,000 stores in 88 countries. Co-founder Amancio Ortega currently sits at number 4 on the list of the world's richest billionaires.

So, what has led to Zara's huge success? There are five key ingredients to this recipe - and some useful lessons for any retailer, clothing or otherwise, that is looking to expand.


Top timing

Speed is of the essence for Zara. Stores are restocked multiple times per week to keep customers happy - and new lines are launched both regularly and quickly. When a new item appears on the catwalk, Zara can have their own version hit the shelves in around three weeks - faster than their competitors. This is partly due to the fact that their clothes are made in nearby countries - rather than Asia, as with many other brands. Zara concentrates on getting the presentation right, so that products are both showcased to be appealing and demonstrated in a way that is helpful to the customer.

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They cater for a diverse audience

Lookalike designer pieces aren't the be all and end all for Zara: they consider fashion-forward items, as well as stocking plenty of timeless pieces from classic cashmere jumpers to simple office wear. This ensures that they attract a diverse customer base, from a range of ages and styles.


They know what customers want

Zara's business model isn't just based on what the catwalks dictate. Instead, they follow top fashion bloggers, pay attention to which of their products are selling best in-store and online, and their store managers' orders also include anecdotal details of what customers in their store have requested. In this way, they lead rather than follow trends hoping for success.


They focus on choice

Zara understands that not every customer is the same: take a look at their range of trousers alone and you'll find a wealth of different colours, sizes, leg lengths, leg widths and styles, in a range of materials and at a selection of prices. This vast amount of choice sets them head and shoulders above many of their competitors.


They control their own supply chain

Relying heavily on too many third parties bumps up the time, expense and risk of things going wrong in the retail world. Zara, however, designs their own products, which are cut from materials that are finished and treated in their own mills. A network of shops local to the mills then sews the garments, keeping the supply chain short and ensuring that products reach stores quickly.


There's no magic behind Zara's success on the high street: simply a strong understanding of their market and a desire to do things the right way. Zara is a brand that stays true to its roots.

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