Zara launches its extremely long-awaited online shopping offer today in just six European countries: Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and the UK. The Americas, Asia and beyond will have to wait. Anything that brings more choice to the consumer is, I think a good thing and, most of all, it means that the United Kingdom shopper doesn’t have to deal with Zara in-store customer service any more.
It’s a peculiarly British Zara problem it seems. I never have a problem in New York, and the Paris & Barcelona Zaras are chaotic but always helpful. I was so gobsmacked at the level of service offered by the changing room staff at the Bond Street Zara that I tweeted my outrage.
(Laden with nine bulky items, (that’s three over their limit), other shopping and my handbag, the staff refused to hold a coat and two other pieces for me to try on afterwards, demanding I return them to the shop floor as ‘it made their staff area untidy’. When I pointed out I intended to buy the coat they insisted I go to the very far end of the store to leave it with my name at the till – the till with a line of over ten people – and then come back to try on my clothes. Instead I dumped it, draping it over a rail of Ts in full view of the fitting room. Apparently this was acceptable as it wasn’t ‘messing up the staff area’. Insanity.)*
Two hours & a dead Blackberry battery later I got home and checked my Twitter feed: it was practically pulsing with indignation: the screen grab above shows maybe a fifth of the indignant tweets from Zara shoppers, many who had braved the Bond Street store, and who had found it a miserable, stroppy experience.
I went into Uniqlo on Oxford Street afterwards, a haven of smiling, welcoming, chirpy, nothing-is-too-much-trouble staff and wondered why Zara had to make it so difficult.
Which all means that as far as I am concerned, Zara online can only be a good thing. Not least because Zara’s owner, the Inditex Group, uses a fast fashion model with super rapid turnover which means stock flies out of store the moment it lands. At least there’s a chance of getting one’s sticky mitts on desirable pieces now.
Of course there’s going to be a problem with returns for Inditex – online has a high percentage of them – and that won’t mesh with a fast fashion policy, which relies on getting stock out on the floor and selling through as quickly as possible. If stock starts reappearing 30 days later that’s going to balls up their sales flow.
The site itself is as simple as it comes, and it’s rather refreshing that they’ve done away with chatter about each piece. There’s a plain description, say ‘high-neck silk blouse’,and that’s it. The zoom function is excellent and there are several detail views of each piece. However you can’t shop a look – if a blouse is shot with a skirt, you can’t link through to that skirt if you are in the blouse section. Overall it’s functional and easy to use. Let’shope they put those key must-have pieces on-line.
*although credit where credit is due – to Beatrice who looked all over the store to find me my size in a coat.