Zara’s history is one of the most unknown, in spite of its massive success. Business founder and largest stakeholder (59%) Amancio Ortega is now the third wealthiest man in the world. His corporation, Inditex, comprises nine companies (Zara, Massimo Dutti and Bershka among them) making up a total of over 6000 shops around the world, and earning an income of nearly €14 billion in 2012. But how did everything start?
The Spaniard was born in 1936 in León, a town towards the north west of Spain. He moved to Galicia when he was 14 and started working for a small clothing shop still as a teenager. In 1972, he founded his first company of bathroom robes, and only three years later, in 1975, Zara was born. In the beginning, Zara was offering cheaper versions of chic high street brands – making it a viral success. To make up for the time needed to adapt to the fast changing market, Ortega restructured the company to make time to market shorter. New companies were created, all belonging from 1985 to the aggregator business Inditex (Industrias de Diseño Textil Sociedad Anónima - Textile Design Industries).
Inditex continued its expansion with more shops, more brands and more international presence. In the late 80s and early 90s, Zara expanded to the US and France, and created its first satellite brand Pull and Bear, targeting younger customers. Other companies were purchased in the mid 90s (Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti) and united to the already multinational presence of the business. Zara Kids, Zara Home and Kiddy’s class were added to the world-renowned Zara brand around year 2000. Inditex is now present in over 90 countries, adapting its clothing range (and price) to standards of the local market. It was only in the early 2000s that Ortega started sharing (still shyly) his figure in public for the good of his business. It is said that, despite being the 3rd richest man in the world, he still lives in an apartment in A Coruña (a town in Galicia), takes his morning coffee in the same café every day, and goes to the company’s canteen to have lunch with his employees. He could very well be the most modest person in the world.
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What has Zara that others don't?
Zara is always on sales. They produce a batch of clothing that goes viral, people shop like crazy, and it's gone. So people check often, as the new items are always more up-to-date. In other words, they adjust to customer's needs at all times, and they do it in-store (by monitoring which items sell out faster and which others stay there longer). To cope with the fast consumption of clothes, they also have an outlet type of shop called Lefties, where all the unsold, not-so-popular items are sold at even cheaper prices.