Zara is prepping for a worldwide expansion, expecting new stores in China to open at a rate of 3 per week. So with all this foreign ground to cover, why is the Spanish retailer practically skipping over the USA, aka the land of consumerism? With only 45 planned US stores, there are several reasons suggested by business professors, and they aren't exactly flattering for us American citizens... at all.
I will preface these quotes with the fact that both business professors are not affiliated with Zara but researchers of the retailer's parent company, Inditex.
José Luis Nueno, a professor of marketing at I.E.S.E. Business School in Madrid, suggests that the bulk of America isn't as fashion forward as Zara's comfortable European domain:
The United States is a graveyard of European retailers... Everyone who has gone there has struggled. Laura Ashley has shut down and even Benetton is declining. The U.S. is really complex because it’s about putting stores in shopping malls in the middle of nowhere. Fashionistas live on the East and West coasts. Then everyone else dresses in the Gap and Walmart and T. J. Maxx. If you really wanted to cover the U.S., you would have to open 300 stores, and they would have to focus all their energy to make it work.
A sensible reason behind Zara's expansion model, yes? Gap and Zara are considerably equal in pricing, but perhaps the world's largest fashion retailer will let Gap hold onto the reins of the US market as Zara glides by to other potentially profiting countries.
Nelson Fraiman, a professor at Columbia Business School, suggests that it is simply a larger market in the US, literally:
Would you expand in the United States? Zara to me is a European store for European style; it’s very fashion forward. And what is the problem in America? They don’t fit in the clothes. So why do it? Having to make larger sizes makes production so much more complex.
Oof. Right in the waistline. Is Zara seriously avoiding America because it doesn't want to budge on their streamlined measurements? Why are fashion retailers so hesitant to tap into the plus-size market?
Zara took awhile to open stores between America's coastlines, and took even longer to provide online shopping to USA. Maybe exclusivity is their mission. But to exclude such a profitable market? Will their strict adherence to the thin physique result in public backlash and untapped profits?
Do you think weight is the real issue behind Zara's limited expansion into the US?