Zara Supply Chain

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A network and flow explanation to Zara’ success
Angel Díaz and Luis Solís
Instituto de Empresa, Maria de Molina 12, 5°, Madrid 28006, Spain E-mails:; Abstract Zara is a Spanish fashion manufacturer and retailer that has known swift success. Spaniards have become used to visiting Zara frequently, as there is always a new product. Zara launches 100 different collections every year, with over 11000 models, none lasting more than five weeks in production and with an average lead-time (design to store delivery) of four weeks. Inditex, the group to which the brand Zara belongs owns five brands with over 1000 stores in more than 30 countries. Although its global sales are still one sixth those of Gap, its sales have increased at an average 30% per year over the last three years, with net benefits over sales of close to 12% in the same period. In this paper we examine Zara’ production and distribution systems, looking for clues to its mass-customization capabilities. We argue that the key to Zara’ success is its Supply Chain (network and flows) approach. The production network is made of a tightly integrated net of product specialized factories, intensive in capital and run under Toyota’s principles, and a secondary network of over 400 micro enterprises, tightly controlled by Inditex but independent. All these are located in the same small geographical area, Galicia (northwest Spain). The swift flow is facilitated through advanced automation and logistics systems, with emphasis on postponement. We compare these network and flow approaches to those of Benetton and Gap, and argue that the key to Zara’ success is this combination of a tightly integrated local network coupled to the most advanced flow systems. A final consideration is the sustainability of these orderwinners over time. Keywords: Key words: Zara, logistics network, flow, fashion

Intense competition in the global marketplace is forcing organizations to consider new practices by which they could enhance and sustain their competitive capabilities. Network configurations and alliances is such one option through which an organization can leverage its resources to compete effectively against fast and nimble competitors. Furthermore, the emphasis on supplier integration in supply chain management has contributed to the growing interest on strategic supplier alliances by companies around the world. Strategic network alliances are innovative and interesting forms of relationships between buyers and suppliers, however, successful supplier alliances have proved to be very elusive for the most part (Landeros and Monczka, 1991). Despite that academic and practitioner literatures have devoted considerable attention to supply network alliances issues, its dynamics has yet many

unanswered questions. Furthermore, most of the literature has focused on cases in few developed countries like USA. There is a need to expand our understanding about international cases since more and more global supply chain networks are becoming more important. The study of the ZARA supply chain network in Spain is a contribution in this direction. The Spanish integrated manufacturer-retailer of apparel Zara has been defined as the Armani for the masses. Although sales of Zara (close to two billion dollars, comparable to Benetton) are much lower than that of the clothing retailer leader Gap, its financial performance has been bright. Net profits of Inditex in 2001 were 340,4 million €, 31% more than the previous year, out of sales of 3.249,8 million €, a growth of 24% with respect to 2000. Zara launches over 100 collections per year (11.000 new garments) and has a total design-to-store cycle time of less than 4 weeks. Every garment will be on sale for a maximum of 5 weeks, after which is removed and sent to discount stores or destroyed. Zara invests close to zero percent of its sales in advertisement (5% of sales for Gap), relying instead on keeping...
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