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Inditex (Zara) - Madrid, Spain
After a late night and extensive day of exploring we all had the earliest start of the day so far and were required to meet in the hotel lobby ready for our Inditex visit at 4.30am! We departed our hotel at 5am to catch a flight on our favourite national airline, Iberia Air, who flew us from Madrid to La Coruna for our visit to the Inditex Group – Zara. Upon arriving to La Coruna and after adjusting to the drop in temperature we travelled in a coach and enjoyed the scenic rolling green hills and countryside that La Coruna had to offer. Upon arrival at Inditex, we could see straight away from simply the size of the buildings and property that we had just entered the head offices of Europe’s largest fashion retailer. We were welcomed warmly by the Inditex staff and shown into a large comfortable auditorium where we got ready for our meeting. After a short introduction by our host, Jesus Echevarria, General Manager of Communication and Institutional Relationships, it was straight down to business. We learnt that Inditex stables 8 brands – Zara, Zara Home, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho & Uterque and employs over 90,000 staff worldwide which man their 4,359 stores that are located in 73 countries. The Zara brand alone accounts for 1,540 stores. Inditex stand by its’ five principles:
Jesus then ran through their business models for each of the brands as well as a little history on each brand. They showed us how their business model is quite different from most of their competitors as they put their customer at the very top of their model followed by Stores, Design & Sourcing (the traditional model starts with Design followed by Sourcing, Stores and finally Customer). After learning of the company’s history and expansion, we then discussed the brand development and constant refining that takes place in the Inditex group which is very much focused on unique locations, shop windows, importance of interior design, product coordination and customer service. This was followed by detailed slides into the background behind the brands in terms of design, production cycles, logistic systems and centres, as well as their environmental plans.
After a brief question time we moved out of the auditorium and onto a walk through company visit. Yta Catoira, Institutional Relations Manager was our host at this point and it was at this stage that we really started to experience how vast and giant their operation actually is. We started off with the design floor which was filled with different teams for each of the brands as well as their international brand managers. Then we were introduced to the people responsible for each country that Inditex had a presence in, this team had their finger on the pulse of the culture fashion and direction for each of the countries they were responsible and then in-turn fed this back to the design team, helping to influence the upcoming trends for the company.
Most amazing was how everything was performed in house, from photo shoots, to store fit outs to the marketing team, to the production teams, to the manufacturing arm, and finally the logistics centre. There was no outsourcing of anything. However what we all found most fascinating were the purpose built brand test stores. These stores were located on one whole floor of the Inditex complex. Each brand had their own mock-store, and each store was an exact replica of the store layout and design for all of their stores across 73 countries. It was here that the store design and look for each season was created. Garments were hung and rehung until the perfect look for the store was created, this design was then documented, processed and sent out to all of their stores to replicate. New store fixtures were tested and trialled in these mock-stores.
We then entered the heart of the Inditex group – one of their garment factories, it was here that we saw the process that brought together all of the design and direction we had seen earlier to finish with a completed fashion forward garment ready for distribution. Their DC was amazing; the streamlined ease that enables Inditex to deliver garments to 73 countries was simply mind boggling. The specific built machines from Denmark which sorted and packed the individual store requested refills looked as if it never ended. They truly stuck to their policy of turnaround to store within 48 hours. Overall the sense of detail every step of the way was really quite amazing to see. After our visit it was quite easy to understand how Inditex, a $13 billion dollar company, really is the world’s leader in fashion retail.