Zara doesn't mind the Gap

Inditex, the Spanish company behind fashion chain Zara, is now the world's largest clothing retailer...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Zara’s parent company saw sales jump €2.22bn in the first quarter of its financial year, a 9% increase on last year. Meanwhile Gap, which previously held the top dog title, saw its sales slump 10% to €2.17bn, thanks largely to a decline in US consumer spending.  So for the first time, the Spanish company has nudged ahead of its US rival in the battle for high street supremacy. And to be honest, we can’t say we’re surprised…

Zara is the jewel in the Inditex crown, of course, with annual sales of more than €6bn. But some of its other smaller lines are also flourishing: ‘yoof’ brand Bershka (which is so cool that we’ve not even heard of it) racked up sales of €925m last year, while upmarket Massimo Dutti took €696m and casual line Pull & Bear accumulated €614m. In fact, Inditex now operates nearly 4,000 stores in 70 countries – and apparently it’s planning further expansion overseas in the coming months. So its new-found prominence is unlikely to be short-lived.

The consensus is that Zara’s success principally comes down to logistics: its ability to pick up on the latest trends on the high street and get them to its designers and onto the shelves faster than any of its rivals. This allows it to keep its nose in front in the rapidly-changing world of ‘fast-fashion’. An Inditex spokesman told the Guardian today: ‘The success of the model lies in being able to adapt what you're offering in the shortest time possible to what clients want.’ On-demand fashion, if you like…

Gap’s fortunes have been in decline for a few years now, although new CEO Glenn Murphy did seem to be making a difference before the credit crunch hit and US punters had to divert their 'white T-shirt and chino' funds to cover the mortgage repayments. But in the UK it rarely seems to attract the crowds that Zara does.

Then again, that does make for a slightly more relaxed shopping experience – one reason for Zara’s low appears to be that it employs roughly half the staff necessary to look after its stores. That means huge queues at the till and big piles of clothes everywhere you look, even if you do manage to fight your way through the hordes.

Inditex stores may be flourishing around the world, but we reckon there’s a lot to be said for internet shopping...

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