In an inditex conference room echevarría gave me a

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In an Inditex conference room, Echevarría gave me a multimedia presentation about the company. The number of stores in different countries popped up on the screen — including 289 in China and 45 in the United States. Since the time of our meeting, in late July, Inditex has reached 350 stores in China and opened another in the United States. The company’s march appears to be as inexorable as the passage of the seasons. But can Inditex survive its own expansion? “When we open a market, everyone asks, ‘How many stores will you open?’ ” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t know. It depends on the customer and how big the demand is. We must have the dialogue with the customers and learn from them. It’s not us saying you must have this. It’s you saying it.” The roots of Inditex go back to 1963, when Ortega, the son of a railway worker, started a business making housecoats and robes in La Coruña. In 1975, he opened his own store in town. He called it Zorba, after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek.”
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Photo The complex in Arteixo, Spain, that houses Inditex headquarters and some Zara factories. CreditPedro Guimarães for The New York Times “I don’t think they were thinking of making history, just that it was a nice name,” Echevarría said. “But apparently there was a bar that was called the same, Zorba, like two blocks away, and the owner of the bar came and said, ‘This is going to confuse things to have two Zorbas.’ They had already made the molds for the letters in the sign, so they just rearranged them to see what they could find. They found Zara.” The holding company Inditex was created in 1985. Ortega wanted to maintain his own manufacturing business in La Coruña, so from the beginning his business model differed from the norm. A traditional ready-to-wear fashion company in the West sends the designs for its clothes to independent factories in countries like China and India, where the labor to make them is cheap. These clothes are then shipped back and stocked in stores in spring and fall, with smaller shipments throughout the year. But a brand at Inditex will make a fall collection, for example, and then ship only three or four dresses or shirts or jackets in each style to a store. There’s very little leftover stock, few extra-smalls or mediums hiding in the back. But store managers can request more if there’s demand. They also monitor customers’ reactions, on the basis of what they buy and don’t buy, and what they say to a sales clerk: “I like this scooped collar” or “I hate zippers at the ankles.” Inditex says its sales staff is trained to draw out these sorts of comments from their customers. Every day, store managers report this information to headquarters, where it is then transmitted to a vast team of in-house designers, who quickly develop new designs and send them to factories to be turned into clothes.
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  • Fall '13
  • Inditex

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