Why are Australians spending in Zara and TopShop yet not with our local brands?

Online shopping is not the only reason our local brands are challenged.

Shopping in ZaraDecember 2011 was the opening of the first Topshop premises in Melbourne.  Hundreds of people waited in line, in the unpredictable Melbourne weather – some for over 17 hours, just to be first into the new Chapel Street store.  For their trouble the first 20 die-hard shoppers were awarded with a $100 voucher to be spent in Topshop.

Shoppers commented – “The clothes are unique, just my style”, “I love it. I read about Zara – the girls came at midnight there, so I wanted to be first in line for Topshop”, “It’s totally worth it. I’m so excited. I’m shaking in my boots”, “It’s young, on-trend and affordable.”

With Zara experiencing the same if not a better response to their opening some months ago in Sydney and Melbourne (they raked in $1.2 million on the first day of trade) it leads me to the question – “Why is it Australians are so excited about spending money in these stores while local retail brands complain about online shopping?”

Can this be the same market where it is regularly reported that stores are experiencing a drop in sales due to online shopping? What do these big international brands know that means they are prepared to invest millions in the current Australian retail market?

In Australia we have comparable retail fashion stores – Sportsgirl, Dotti, Witchery, Forever Young.  So why are many of the local chains finding it tough yet Zara and Topshop experience bumper first day sales. Is it just the excitement of the new or is something else going on? I’m told that these international brands have a very sharp nose for trends and laser quick design and production ability so that new looks are distributed immediately to the stores. They also turn their stock more quickly than most Australian brands and they have keen price-points. Package all this with a great shopping experience in a well laid out and designed store and their edge becomes self evident.

Apparently their superior brand management and attention to detail in every aspect of the fashion cycle is a shopping experience that Australians are happy to spend money on in-store. Shopping like many other industries is now a global game and to play requires an understanding of the global landscape and an offer that appeals to a highly sophisticated consumer; even if she’s only 15 she knows what her fashion icons are wearing now in Paris, New York and Milan and she expects to be able to buy a version of that at an affordable price…or she can always go online.

Local brands have an opportunity to reassess their business model and their brand strategy and culture to create compelling brand experiences for customers that lead to strong and sustainable businesses.

Zara retail success update Sept 2012


By Kellie Romeo & Fiona Pearman


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