Here in our wonderful NYC bubble, Zara is the best thing ever. Surprisingly well made, mostly reasonably priced, and just so freaking cute — it's a dream for those of us with expensive taste but no funds to match. So, we're not surprised that the Spanish retailer is in the midst of a global expansion, which includes adding 400 new stores in China. Unfortunately for us, that does not mean big plans for Americans outside of NYC. Why? Well, according to one Spanish marketing professor, "[T]he United States is a graveyard of European retailers."
In a recent interview with The New York Times about the Spanish mega-brand, Professor José Luis Nueno continues on to say, "Everyone who has gone [to the United States] has struggled. Laura Ashley has shut down and even Benetton is declining. The U.S. is really complex because it’s about putting stores in shopping malls in the middle of nowhere. Fashionistas live on the East and West coasts. Then everyone else dresses in the Gap and Walmart and T. J. Maxx. If you really wanted to cover the U.S., you would have to open 300 stores, and they would have to focus all their energy to make it work." Okay, we get it, it's a big country; though, we don't really agree that rural Americans are any less fashionable than rural Europeans.
But if you thought that was harsh, listen to what Columbia Business School professor Nelson Fraiman remarks in the same piece: "Zara to me is a European store for European style; it's very fashion forward. And what is the problem in America? They don't fit in the clothes. So, why do it? Having to make larger sizes makes production so much more complex."
The old stereotype of fat, lazy Americans versus skinny, chic European people is getting a little old. Sure, continental style has a certain flare, just like American design has its own unique je ne sais quoi. But the truth is that Europe, just like America, is dealing with a rapidly growing obesity epidemic. Plus, we're guessing that outside of major cities, Europeans have the same rural sensibilities as millions of Americans, and that means that they, too, shop at their own version of K-Mart. We're not so different, after all. If European stores are refusing to make larger sizes, they're not just losing American customers — they're losing a growing slice of the world's population that can't wear sizes 0-8.
Of course, it's true that obesity is a serious health problem for many people. You can make the argument, if you want, that the cult of skinny is a good thing because it discourages against weight gain (not really our line of thinking). But, companies generally aren't about what's right for your health, they're about the bottom line, and refusing to cater to eager potential customers is just bad business. That's why we sincerely hope that Zara doesn't take any of these analyses to heart! Bring it on, because if the stores' popularity in NYC is any indication, you'd have great success from coast to coast! (The Cut)
Image via The Cut.