The Zara brand effect

In case you haven’t heard the screams from Bourke Street, one of the biggest fashion retail names has opened its doors in Melbourne. Following its successful launch in Sydney, Spanish brand Zara, now has flagship stores in Australia’s two biggest markets. It has been publicised as one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated launches this year. For some, it is as exciting as a new Apple product launch.

So what is it that makes Zara such an impressive and highly sought after brand? Is it just a new fad that will fade within a few months or will it really change the way fashion savvy Melburnians and indeed Australians shop? Is it just the cultural cringe biting again or is the brand truly special?

The timing of the launch is bold, if not risky. We are told it is one of the toughest periods in retail, with many brands struggling for survival. As a new kid on the Aussie block, Zara needs to fight against the establishment, when many are struggling for survival. Zara have either picked a bad time, or they see a real opportunity other Australian brands haven’t realised.

Louis Vuitton’s Fashion Director Daniel Pietter has described the brand as “the most innovative and devastating retailer in the world”.  Zara has a reputation of disrupting the market wherever it goes. A clear brand proposition has been crucial in the brand’s success. This is a great example of a brand built on a simple idea that is delivered ruthlessly.

Zara is all about instant ‘runway’ fashion made accessible for everyone. The brand is consistently delivered by controlling most of supply chain and the customer experience. This enables incredibly quick product development, distribution and low prices. In Australia, they are promising twice weekly clothing drops freighted directly from Europe to ensure the product has a high turnover. Presumably this encourages people to visit the stores more frequently and avoids everyone looking the same.

They also own most of their stores, which ensures they control the brand buying experience. Zara is famous for snubbing expensive glossy ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements. They strategically open stores in heavily trafficked, high-end retail destinations and rely on their shop windows, store experience and customer service to build the brand. It is all about what they do, not what they say.

Zara has now successfully expanded into 78 countries and their policy of ‘glocalisation’ has also helped them avoid the generic ‘chain’ badge. Apparently, each location is highly researched and receives individualised product drops.

The Melbourne Zara branch is also one of their ‘eco stores’. Essentially this means they are reducing emissions through the use of renewable energy sources. While this in itself is commendable, most if not all of the clothes are being produced overseas and air freighted in. This ventures in to potentially dangerous territory and the brand needs to be careful not to over claim their green credentials.

Once the novelty of being ‘new’ wears off, it will be interesting to how the brand is tracking here. Time will tell whether Australians adopt the brand and if they feel they can’t live without it. It will also be interesting to see what impact, if any, it has on the retail market and whether it influences Australian brands to reconsider their approach to pricing, product, retail experience, marketing and how they engage with their customers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you visited one of the Zara stores here or overseas? How do you feel about the brand? What was your brand experience?

Michael Hughes
Director of Brand Strategy

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  1. My first experience of Zara was in Barcelona in 1999, I still have the pair of shorts today (although a little worn) and are a favourite. It’ll be very interesting indeed to see if Zara takes off in Australia and has a similar brand following like other countries around the world.

    • Hi Raul, Great to have your input. You raise a point so relevant for brands in this super information age. All behaviors of a brand, even sometimes those heard by word of mouth can impact on a brands reputation, credibility and eventually a brand’s equity.

  2. As a young Australian living in London I have indeed adopted the brand, and I love everything in there. A friend had taken me there first on a shopping trip, I thought it looked too expensive and much too classy. But after going in there seems to be a huge range of styles both simple and cool.

    I’m interested to know if the company will take off, as many European and American brands have. And if the opening of a Zara store will be something word of mouth heavily contributes to, not just the shop front.

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