Zara Turns Focus on E-Commerce

Madrid–Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara opens Thursday its first e-commerce store for Spain, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy and Portugual. The retailer, owned by the Inditex Group, plans to expand its web presence into the United States in 2011.

Pablo Isla, Inditex’ ceo, calls the launch as “an important strategic step,” adding that the Internet roll out will eventually reach all Zara markets. Although the retailer has had a Zara Home website since 2007 in 15 European countries and boasts some 4.4 million fans on its Facebook page, the company has been behind other rivals in expanding its web business. For instance, The Gap, which has been online in the United States since 1997, recently expanded the service to 55 countries. Sweden’s H&M, Europe’s second-largest clothing retailer, has been selling online since 1998 in seven countries, including Germany, and plans to move into another major market, Britain, in September.

“Inditex considers that internet is becoming more and more a relevant sales channel for the apparel sector and this is the right time for Zara to enter the e-commerce,” added a company spokesperson. In fact, a recent poll by the Nielsen institute in 55 countries showed that clothes are now the second most popular products online, after airline tickets but before books.

Zara’s arrival “is eagerly awaited, as we are in the middle of boom in Internet clothing sales,” said Nathalie Gennerat, a consultant at the French Fashion Institute. She pointed to Britain, where almost 10% of clothing is purchased online.

Research firm Sanford C. Bernstein estimates the Spanish fast-fashion maker could pull in as much as $2.5 billion, a year from online sales by its third year. Its nearest rival, Gap Inc., reported $1.12 billion in online and catalog sales last year—about 8% of its overall U.S. sales.

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