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How does Zara keep up-to-the-minute on trends? With a two week turn-around. A recent Slate article on the interworkings of Zara's operations takes a look at how the company has removed the necessity for crystal-ball trend reading by owning a large percentage of their production facilities near the headquarters in Spain (they outsource only about 25% of their production to large factories elsewhere). This means it takes a mere two weeks for a design to go from sketchbook to store. Also, bi-weekly shipments are made to international stores, allowing the company to catch a trend on the way up, rather than following it down, like most fast fashion retailers have to do.
Uniqlo, on the other hand, takes the slow-and-steady approach. The Japanese-owned company focuses on keeping costs low by ignoring fashion whims in favor of steadily producing inventory all year long. The focus on basics with an emphasis on fabric and cut rather than trends allows designs to stay cost efficient because factories are booked far in advance. Also, where Zara produces in small quantities, Uniqlo produces in bulk driving down the resulting price point.
Both strategies are working (the companies both rank as top fashion retailer revenue producers worldwide), but which will win the fast-fashion race has yet to be determined.
· Polka Dots Are In? Polka Dots It Is! [Slate]
· Fast-Fashion Face off: Here's How Uniqlo Compares to Zara, Gap, and H&M [Racked]
· All Zara Coverage [Racked]