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Zara's Business Model and Competitive Analysis

Essay by review  •  October 29, 2010  •  Case Study  •  10,303 Words (42 Pages)  •  3,568 Views

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Question 1 - Zara's Business Model and Competitive Analysis

Zara, the most profitable brand of Inditex SA, the Spanish clothing retail group, opened its first store in 1975 in La Coruсa, Spain; a city which eventually became the central headquarters for Zara's global operations. Since then they have expanded operations into 45 countries with 531 stores located in the most important shopping districts of more than 400 cities in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Throughout this expansion Zara has remained focused on its core fashion philosophy that creativity and quality design together with a rapid response to market demands will yield profitable results. In order to realized these results Zara developed a business model that incorporated the following three goals for operations: develop a system the requires short lead times, decrease quantities produced to decrease inventory risk, and increase the number of available styles and/or choice. These goals helped to formulate a unique value proposition: to combine moderate prices with the ability to offer new clothing styles faster than its competitors. These three goals helped to shape Zara's current business model.

Zara's Business Model

Zara's business model can be broken down into three basic components: concept, capabilities, and value drivers. Zara's fundamental concept is to maintain design, production, and distribution processes that will enable Zara to respond quickly to shifts in consumer demands. Josй Marнa Castellano, CEO of Inditex stated that "the fashion world is in constant flux and is driven not by supply but by customer demand. We need to give consumers what they want, and if I go to South America or Asia to make clothes, I simply can't move fast enough." This highlights the importance of this quick response time to Zara's operations.

Capabilities of Zara, or the required resources needed to exploit the opportunities and execute this conceptual strategy, are numerous for Zara. Zara maintains tight control over their production processes keeping design and manufacturing in-house or with some strategic partnerships located nearby Headquarters. Currently, Zara maintains 80% of its production processes in Europe, 50% in Spain which is very close to La Coruсa headquarters. They have strategic agreements with local manufacturers that ensure timely delivery and service. Through these strategic partnerships and the benefits brought by this proximity of manufacturing and operational processes, Zara maintains the flexibility necessary to design and produce over 12000 new items annually. This capability allows Zara to achieve their strategy of expedited response to consumer demand.

Value drivers for Zara are both tangible and intangible in the benefits that are returned to all stakeholders. Tangibly, Inditex, the parent company of Zara, has 11.02% net margin on operations and their market capitalization (Equity - market value) is Ђ13, 981 (in thousands) in 2002. Their net working capital (current assets - current liabilities) is Ђ133 (in thousands) . Additionally, the success of Zara can be demonstrated through their outstanding financial performance. From 1996 to 2000, Inditex SA tripled their corporate profits and in 2001, a year of overall economic downturn in the retail industry, Inditex SA saw a 31% increase in profits. Intangibly, customer loyalty and brand recognition have provided significant value to Zara. The number of consumers they attract continues to rise and their brand is synonymous with the cutting edge of fashion at affordable prices. The successful implementation of Zara's business model provides great value to stakeholders and differentiates their business from their peers.

Competitive Advantage

Fundamental to Zara's success is their commitment to rapid response in customer trends in fashion, producing clothing often and with short life spans (10 wears). Their commitment to this goal and the capabilities that they have developed to achieve it, have provided significant competitive advantage to Zara especially in the areas of product development, strategic partnerships and cost of production, advertising and marketing, and information technology infrastructure. The efficiencies and processes developed in these four functions differ significantly from their competitors and stand out in providing additional value and profitability to Zara.

Figure 1: Zara's Business Model

Product Development

Zara's unique approach to product development is instrumental to their success. Zara gives store managers significant autonomy in both determining the products to display in their stores and which to place on sale, and relaying market research and store trends back to their headquarters in La Coruсa. At headquarters there are teams of commercials who take this information into account to design and effectively plan and produce all of Zara's products. Zara maintains a design team of 200 people, all of which produce approximately 12,000 new styles per year for Zara. The process of obtaining market information and relaying it to design and production teams expedites product development by shortening the throughput time of a product to 3-4 weeks from design to distribution. This process is very different from its competitors. Many competitors rely on a small elite design team that plans both design and production needs well in advance. Stores have little autonomy in deciding which products to display or put on sale because Headquarters plans accordingly and ships quantities as forecasted. Zara's speed to market in product development exceeds the capabilities of its competitors. This in itself provides additional value to stakeholders, customers, and stores in producing quality clothing at affordable prices .Zara's product development capabilities are essential to Zara's business strategy and future success.

Strategic Partnerships and Cost of Production

In comparison to competitors, Zara's business strategy, in regards to strategic partnerships and cost of production, provide for a strategic competitive advantage. Zara, unlike its competitors such as Gap, Benetton, and H&M, does not use Asian outsourcing. Eighty percent of Zara's materials are manufactured in Europe, with 50% made in Zara controlled facilities in the Galicia region of Spain near headquarters. Most of Zara's competitors have 100% outsourcing to cheap Asian countries. Though the cost of production in Spain is 17-20% more expensive

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