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The reason why the closure of Zara megastore in China matters

Brief analysis on the importance of this rebranding strategy

The reason why the closure of Zara megastore in China matters Brief analysis on the importance of this rebranding strategy

The fast-fashion giant Zara is making people talk about itself for a few days because of its decision to close its megastore in China. About a week ago, customers who went to the store at Lessen Shopping Centre in Chengdu were welcomed with a banner on the front door, which invited them to go to other Zara stores in Yokado e Sino-OceanTaikoo Li, situated in Chengdu. Since then the news is gone all the way around the world. The closure of the Zara megastore in the Chinese city, where there are now eight stores of the brand, is more important than it appears. In fact, the decision actually refers to the intention of the Spanish group Inditex to launch a “restyling” of the brand, including its repositioning on the Chinese market. But let's go back a second.

The Zara landing to Chinese country happened for the first time in 2004, when the brand opened its first store in Hong Kong, and then conquered also the mainland China in 2006. After five years Zara landed in the city of Chengdu by opening the megastore in question. But, in this story of the conquest of Asian country by Inditex, one of the most important aspects maybe is the sales strategy implemented right away, which saw to prefer the e-commerce rather traditional sales. Despite its 190 stores with Zara sign in China, the group prefered to bid on online sales for this country, increasing definitively its online presence in 2014, when it opened an online store on platform Tmall, an e-commerce website who also includes Nike, Burberry and Gap. This didn't mean the closing of the official website, which however was considered by the Inditex group less effective and powerful for the reinforcing of the brand online. So, the partnership with Tmall has sanctioned the definitive launch of Zara on the Chinese web, but it has also exposed another important aspect of this story: the Zara image in China. The fact that the Spanish giant is less active phisically on the Chinese territory compared to other occidental countries (for example, according to Wikipedia only in Italy we count about 90 Zara and 11 Zara Kids stores) represents not only the autonomy from "real" stores of the online shop, which also appears to be able to build a successful sales strategy, but also its less powerful role of the brand into Chinese fast-fashion. If in our country Zara is one of the most important brands for low-cost fashion, well-known everywhere, maybe in China it's not. It's hard to image it, but in the Asian country Zara is not so popular as we have been used to know. What is lacking is, if I can say so, the tradition and the leadership that the Spanish brand has been able to build somewhere else, considered for years one of the most important names of the international fast-fashion. In China, Zara is one of the many clothing stores in the streets of the cities, without the "iconic" status quo the brand has consolidated in the rest of the world. Returning again to the initial news, the decision to close the megastore in Chengdu has now a new value. It's not a simple closure of a store, but a real marketing strategy, which aims to requalify the brand in China. By entrusting the bulk of the sales to e-commerce an closing the megastore, symbol of a "throw-away" shopping, the Inditex group decided to give Zara a new, unexpected role: smaller and focused boutiques to consolidate the brand as reference point of "traditional" shopping for a more refined target. 
The future will confirm or not these hypothesis, meanwhile the idea that in the world there is a place where Zara is not a fast-fashion giant seems like science fiction.