Of Inditex's total employees, over 80% of them are part of the retail sales force and 8.5% are in manufacturing, design, logistics, and distribution. The remaining 11.5% are part of the corporate headquarters of Inditex, which is located in the region of Spain called Galicia.
The role of the corporate center at Inditex's headquarters is that of a "strategic controller" only, and is involved in setting the corporate strategy, approving the business strategies of the individual chains, and controlling their overall performance rather than as an "operator" functionally involved in running the chains. This gives Zara autonomy to operate independently and be responsible for its own strategy, product design, sourcing & manufacturing, distribution, image, personnel and financial results.
With this freedom, Zara was able to make major investments in manufacturing, logistics, and IT, including establishment of a just-in-time manufacturing system and a 130,000 square meter warehouse close to its corporate headquarters. Zara manufactured its most fashion-sensitive products internally and its designers continuously tracked customer preferences and placed orders with internal and external suppliers based on this information. Due to its unique needs, Zara chose to internally develop its business systems. Zara is now able to originate a design and have finished goods in stores within weeks for entirely new designs and take even less time for modifications of existing products.
Key International Competitors of Inditex
Gap, H&M and Benetton are considered Inditex's three closest comparable international competitors. As in the product positioning map, Inditex's flagship brand, Zara, is relatively perceived as more fashionable than all the other three and prices less than Benetton and Gap but higher than H&M. In these four competitors, Benetton and Gap place at relatively less fashionable and higher price, while Zara and H&M is more fashionable and price lower.
In Appendix 1 which analyzed the operating and financial performance of the 4 companies in the year of 2001, we can see that H&M is the closest competitor in many dimensions, such as ROE, Gross and Net Profit Margin, etc. Also, H&M's focused approach to international market is more similar to Inditex's expansion style than the other two closest competitors.
Business Model of Zara
As the largest and most internationalized brand of Inditex's chain, Zara is the principle driver of the group's growth and play the lead role of Inditex's sales and profit. Zara's unique business model brings special interest of business studies and is often sited as "Dell in the fashion industry".
The core concept of Zara's business model is they sell "medium quality fashion clothing at affordable prices", and vertical integration and quick-response is key to Zara's business model. Through the entire process of Zara's business system: designing, sourcing and manufacturing, distribution and retailing, they presented four fundamental success factors: short cycle time, small batches per product, extensive variety of product every season and heavy investment in information and communication technology. These four elements are involved in every aspect of the business.