Wednesday, January 19

the lesser-known back rooms of a colossus that sells a billion garments a year


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On April 1, Marta Ortega, third daughter of the founder of Zara, will become president of Inditex. A textile giant with a workforce of 144,000 employees and more than 7,000 stores in the world distributed in eight leading brands: Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe.

Piloting the colossus will be carried out by a woman born in Vigo, mother of two children and with one foot on the 38-year-old, who started in the company from below as a cashier in a London store. She will run an empire of 87 billion founded by his father in the mid-70s, which stands as a successful business model and which elevated Amancio Ortega (1936) as the richest man in the world for years, with a fortune close to 70,000 million euros.

Behind this unprecedented triumph is an entrepreneur who «He always knew how to listen to what the street wanted» and that he had the talent to surround himself with people who supported him in his career.

Its founder defines the brand he created from scratch, at number 64 Juan Flórez street, as «Serenity without show». The numbers and names behind Inditex are known, but the back room of this family business is full of curiosities and anecdotes.

He left his studies at the age of 14

Although closely linked to La Coruña, Amancio Ortega was born in a small town in León. His father’s work as a railwayman led him to settle during his childhood in the city where he ultimately wove his empire. At just 14 years old, the businessman dropped out of school to work in two clothing stores, his first contact with the world of fashion. About his beginnings, he acknowledges that he always wanted to do “something different.” There is no doubt about it.

His first success: the boatiné

In the 1960s, Amancio Ortega married his first wife, Rosalía Mera, a link from which his children Sandra and Marcos were born, affected by cerebral palsy. The couple created in 1963 the company Confecciones GOA (the acronym of its name backwards), dedicated to the production of boatiné gowns that were in fashion at the time. In the checking account, which he opened with his brother, they entered 2,500 pesetas, a meager budget that would soon multiply. His daughter Sandra Ortega is currently the second richest person in Spain after the death of her mother in August 2013, only advanced by her father’s fortune.

Zara wanted to be called Zorba

Amancio opened his first store in La Coruña in 1975. To baptize it he was inspired by the classic cinema, ‘Zorba el Grecia’, but legend has it that the brand was already registered. Hence the Zara variant was born. With an average age of 23 years, today in Spain there are 875 women who bear that name.

The man who was doubted existed

Ortega’s escalation made him one of the men most wanted by the paparazzi, but he prevented his face from being published until, coinciding with Zara’s IPO, he agreed to do so on the advice of a communication consultant. The biographer Covadonga O ‘Shea relates that the journalistic and financial media even wondered if’ that man would exist ‘. He has never granted an interview and the images that are had of him are counted.

From hating the plane to owning one

Those who know the founder of Inditex know that he never liked to travel by plane, even though he ended up owning one, and that in the early years of the company he changed cars every year due to the miles overland he traveled to, precisely, avoid flying. He also moved a lot by train until he crossed the Atlantic and his time became, more than ever, in gold.

One billion garments per year

The Galician colossus has stores spread all over the globe. Only in South Korea there are 54 stores, 36 in Kazakhstan, 44 in Egypt, and more than 300 in China, one of the nuclei of its expansion in Asia. Among the chain’s nearly 7,000 stores, one billion garments are sold per year, but a maximum of 12,000 units are made of each design.

An express collection for Ramadan

Zara sweeps the United Arab Emirates, where its landing was a revolution. To satisfy her customers, she often designs specific collections, such as the one she launched for Ramadan. During this celebration, the Zara website for the United Arab Emirates promoted a special edition for the holy month consisting of long dresses with a conservative style, flowy pants and a variety of accessories to complete the looks.

Makeup, perfume and pets

The variety of garments that Inditex offers is infinite. With collections that are renewed every week, fashion gives way to all kinds of accessories, perfumes, costume jewelery, makeup and even clothes for pets. The latest novelty that the Zara website already incorporates, ‘The New Pet collection’ that includes raincoats and padded jackets for dogs from 22 euros.

The largest Zara in the world

Opened on September 12, 2019 in Dubai, this space has a single floor of more than 5,000 square meters. Its leadership as the largest store, however, will be threatened with the inauguration of the España building in Madrid over the next year, where the company plans to open a ‘megaZara’ with almost 8,000 square meters divided into four floors.

A case study at Harvard

The most prestigious business schools in the world (Harvard Business School, London Business School or Wharton) study the brand’s pioneering distribution system, a centralized inventory management model that allows supplying all Zara stores in the world in a maximum of 48 hours, twice a week.

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