Lean Fashion – Zara

I’m a big fan of Zara, having been introduced to them overseas. I saw them in Europe along with H&M stores. When I went to Malaysia and Thailand last year, my friends were also stocking up on Zara. So I did the same! The clothes looked good, decent quality and the prices were reasonable.

My favourite pair of shorts over the summer were Zara. I got them for $30-40 AUD. My favourite jacket over the winter was a Zara jacket which I bought for $150 AUD.

The opening of the Zara store in Sydney has resulted in customers lining up around the block and clearing out the stock. There is clearly pent up demand for Zara in Australia.

Zara – keeping it lean

The Zara business model reminds me a lot about lean startups. Look at this quote from Zara’s Chief of Communication from this article.

“Zara is known for interpreting runway fashion trends and having copycat looks available in-store within three weeks.

Items available include a leopard print cardigan for $59.95, sleeve cotton tops for $19.95 and jeans for $69.95.

Mr Echevarria attributed Zara’s success to focusing on customer feedback and being reactive to their comments. Store managers in Sydney will carry out a daily sales analysis and order new stock twice a week, which will arrive from Spain within 48 hours.”

Similarities with lean startups

So this is what Zara doing:

– Constantly talking to it customers and listening to their feedback.

– Monitoring daily analytics on what’s moving in the store AND knowing what is not selling.

– Analysing fashion trends for new looks and behaviours

– Ability to adjust their design and production rapidly

Which ultimately leads to new fashions in store. This is a rapid iteration process and results in an ability to pivot on a dime. Whilstly talking to customers all the time is good and getting feedback, it is of little use if there are no analytical evidence to back it up. It is also futile if you are unable to adjust your product in a timely manner despite customers wanting a different feature or changing consumer taste.

However, this system only works if the whole process is in sync. It is an end to end process of listening, watching, producing and distributing quickly.

There is definitely a few takeaways that lean startups can learn from this.

I’m out like last seasons fashion,

Matt Ho.