Survey locomotive Spanish textile. Thus spoke Zara.Sans no advertising, the group of ready-to-wear made more profits than Benetton. An Iberian miracle?

The Spanish economy booming and the indicators are green. The growth, which was 3.4% for 1998-1999 is expected to reach 3.8% in the next biennium. Inflation (1.4%) is at its lowest level since 1962 and the deficit is controlled after a long decade of debt. As for unemployment, the bane of the Spanish economy is in decline (18% against 22% in 1996) and, since 1994, some 2 million jobs were created. The screenplay, one imagines, a doping effect on Spanish companies now show strong ambitions beyond their borders. This is particularly the case of the textile sector, where, behind the giant Zara, groups like Cortefiel and Mango to conquer the most competitive markets.

A Coruña (Galicia) special envoy Caught in the rocky coasts of Galicia and the town of Arteixo, polygon Sabón do not look. But to go this anarchic set of prefabricated clinging to a rugged takes place gradually consistency. Out of 400 000 m2, is feverish activity at this end of afternoon clusters of women come out different units; bicycles weave; vans and trucks zigzag on this space that could accommodate fifty football fields. In the center, the recent “fundación”, the administrative center of the company, seems quieter.

A small in the big leagues. In this concrete structure beaten by humid winds lies the center of Zara of power, this giant of the ready-to-wear that is now shaking GAP and Benetton. A success all the more striking that the regional context is more promising. Region economically underdeveloped tapped by unemployment (23%), Galicia is part of the tail of the Spanish economy cars. But now, on this soil devastated former small textile unit has emerged as one of the greatest successes of Spanish capitalism, emblematic of a new expansionist drive on the most competitive markets. With some 750 shops in 21 countries, including Zara Inditex Group is the leading brand experiencing impressive growth: in 1998, the holding company generated a turnover estimated at 10.5 billion francs, 45% off Spain (up from 5.7 billion in 1996); the benefits reach 1.2 billion F or, for the first time, a greater volume than that obtained by the Italian Benetton. The unprecedented success of Zara, who introduced the concept of “cheap chic” and allows it to hold the upper hand Champs -Elysées in Manhattan. Zara is also present in Japan, Mexico, Kuwait, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and covets, Hungary “But his greatest achievement is probably grow without any hype. At Zara, no spots or to the poster. only sprained this unprecedented discretion in this profession, some pages of the most austere in local newspapers at the time of the sales. this strategy, which sticks to the skin since its launch in 1978 “sell rather than sell ‘s ‘registered in line with the temperament of its founder-CEO, Amancio Ortega, 62 years. This cultivates the art of secrecy with such obstinacy that he managed to make a faceless giant Zara. the last known photograph it goes back twenty years. a Coruña 300 000, Ortega said it could walk on the “Paseo Maritimo” or the “called La Torre” without anyone recognizing him. despite their zeal, nat media ional face walls: “El Senor Pepe” as employees call exchange home entertainment and flees like the plague interviews and inaugurations. In September 1998, Crown Prince Felipe, who came to visit him, had to agree to an interview away from cameras and microphones. Discretion as doctrine. When asked his communications department, it should be satisfied with this formula: “. The company has over men” Indeed, Amancio Ortega who is said that he remained single despite his Falcon jet does s’ never departed from this maxim. Originally, there was a modest paperboy shirts became a dealer in haberdashery and seeking by all means to make dressing gowns and chic blouses accessible to women of Corunna. With his wife Rosalia, Josefa his sister and his brother Antonio, the young Ortega launches in 1963 the factory Confecciones Goa. In 1975, the young textile company opened its first Zara store in the center of A Coruña. This will be the preamble to a continuous increase in power, the creation of other brands. Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Kiddy’s Class, Bershka “” Inditex is the best thing that ever happened to Galicia over the last fifteen years, opine Antonio Grandio, renowned economist Coruña. At the very least, the group employs 12 000 people and about 25,000 indirectly. Here, with three or four additional Zara, unemployment would be defeated!

As for style, it mocks the culture of own secret Ortega. It is true that it is poles apart from that of a group such as Benetton, who bet heavily on its image. communication fault, it’s on the board that we must seek the philosophy of the brand: “The driving idea of Zara is to democratize fashion. Faced with the fashion conceived as a privilege, Zara offers an accessible fashion that invades the street “.” In practice, fifty milliners travel the world in the latest trends they transmit as soon as the center of Arteixo. “the greatest strength of the group is the speed of execution, the possible thing in that it controls both production and distribution, says a designer Zara. Between the idea of a new model and its arrival in stores, it does not take more than a fortnight. ”

“Just in time”. A strategy in which the store is key. Each unit has a power of initiative and reports directly to the parent. A unique interactivity helps fulfill two principles: the “just in time” in Japanese and “zero inventory.” “Even if it is refined, the system has not changed since the beginning. It is based on the constant renewal of some 7000 models each year. When entering a Zara shop, one can thus always expect something new. The force is to give the impression to buy Calvin Klein or Gucci cheap and in a variety of shades, “says Anxo Lugilde, the newspaper La Voz de Galicia.

In a region victim of an inferiority complex, the advent of a multinational is not without cause some pride. Even unionists involved in the chorus of praise. For petulant Lola Lopez, employed at Zara for 18 years and member of the central power Commissioners Obreras (CCOO), “Inditex is a major employer and a social point of view, the company is a model. We can count the strikes on the fingers of the hand. Of course, all is not rosy and often faces the paternalism of the company. When an employee wants a bank loan, for example, he must go to chat privately with Josefa, responsible management, and sister Ortega. ” More seriously, the unions also recall that Zara, which produces 50% of its models in Galicia and Portugal, benefits, like the others, a subcontracting system less riding on legality.

Some downsides. Trade union sources, 40% of the sector would work to black. In every corner of Galicia and bloom small garment factories, subject to the vagaries of the orders and who would live between 12 000 and 16 000 people. “This is ephemeral structures which very often do not respect labor laws, said Juan Fernandez, head of textiles to the CGU, the other major union. It’s a wonderful production machine hose wish, but all at the price of insecurity. ” “Do not forget that, unlike Catalonia, Galicia does not have a textile industrial base, although the region is rich in artists like Adolfo Dominguez. This is the Zara force have risen to the level of a multinational. ”

On paper, Amancio Ortega is 100% owner of the brand. Does this mean that the old family business succeeds in keeping control of the empire, Zara? The discrete boss would not let such a subject in the dark. If it does not intend to injure his, Ortega has every intention that its brand will survive it while remaining in the hands of professionals. The board is already dominated by external men, Jose Maria Castellano, managing director and face the giant Zara. Amancio Ortega has always repeated: “The company is above men.”