Zara is one of the largest clothing producers and retail chains in the fashion world. The product range includes women's, men's and children's clothing, as well as shoes, cosmetics and accessories, and more recently their own Home Collection.
ZARA was founded in 1974 by Armancio Ortega in A Coruna, Spain. In his first store, Ortego predominantly sold fashion at affordable prices, with cuts inspired by the major fashion brands of the time. With growing success however the range of products reinforced Zara’s own creations. Early on it was clear that they wanted to refrain from advertising, except in their own shops and shop windows. The saved advertising budget was partly used to accelerate the opening of new branches and increasing efficiency. Ortega focused in particular on optimizing the manufacturing process and distribution.
Unlike classic fashion brands Ortega did not want to design collections and create trends through fashion shows and media presence. His aim was to respond rapidly to upcoming trends and serve the requirements of existing customers. Ortega described this goal as the realization of "Instant Fashion".
After opening several exclusive stores in good locations of major city centres throughout Spain, in 1988 ZARA commenced international expansion. Firstly in neighboring country Portugal, then just one year later ZARA dared to take the step into the USA, followed by France in 1990. Subsequently the company grew rapidly in the 1990s. ZARA has more than 2,000 locations in 88 countries to date.
Contrary to the general trend of the clothing industry, ZARA continues to produce nearly 50% in Spain and a further 26% within Europe. This allows the desired response rate to new trends and short decision paths. Products which remain in the range for longer periods, such as basic t-shirts, are manufactured in Asia and Africa. The more fashionable and fast turnaround creations are manufactured in the company's own factories in Spain and Portugal.
Therefore, a new product needs no more than four weeks from the basic design to stocking the store shelf. Changes to existing designs require only half that time. If a product does not sell well within a week or two it will be culled immediately. This can lead to rapidly changing selections in the stores. As a result, the average ZARA customer visits a store every three weeks, whereas classical retailers expect an average of three to four visits per customer per year.