Sometimes, in this little fashion bubble I live in, I am sure that things I consider to be of interest, those living in "the real world" would not have not a clue about, let alone care. This is definitely not the case with the opening of Australia's flagship Zara store in Sydney. From the rumours that began circulating as far back as 2007, to their confirmation by the way of the brand's billboards in the windows of three levels of Sydney's new Westfield since late last year, the wait is finally over. Zara has landed on Australian shores. And what a landing it seems to be. The opening night on Tuesday - which drew a crowd of over 500 VIPs - was only a small indication of things to come.
With the store opening its doors to the public a 9am yesterday morning, I literally haven't been able to walk through Pitt Street mall (let alone make it into the store) without pushing my way through a teaming mob. When you consider the fact that yes, people, they are just clothes (did I really just say that?) it seems rather ridiculous the amount of queuing that has resulted in excessive security and even police patrols outside the store. Maybe an indication that we should have had Zara a long, long time ago. But, better late than never! Which brings me to the entire point of this post... a sentiment that certainly wouldn't be shared by the Australian retailing community. Let's just say, stores such as Witchery, Sportsgirl and Cue should be very, very afraid.
The Spanish giant - who, by the way, will be dropping product into stores twice every WEEK - will provide some much needed to change to the Australian high street. Their price point is quite a bit lower than that of existing Aussie retailers - while their quality and breath of selection is often much higher. They have such an insanely quick turnaround (for those of you who paid attention in economics class - it's called supply and demand), where they can see something on the catwalk, follow the dissection of trends through the various media outlets and have runway-inspired pieces on their shelves within three weeks. That's before the original designers even know which pieces from their collection will be manufactured. And - of course - all before our own retailers have had a chance to blink. So what may be bad news for the Australian retail sector can only be good news for the Australian consumer.
Before I went overseas and discovered the joys of Zara, along with H&M, Topshop, Cos and many other stores us Aussies miss out on, I was quite happily forking out $149.95 for a pair of Sportsgirl jeans. $60 for a plain tee from Witchery? No problem. $189 for those cute wedge boots at Wittner? You betcha. (Yes, these prices aren't that expensive... but when you consider the fact they are for clothes from mass-market chain stores that everyone else will be buying... they become grossly overpriced. I'd rather spend a bit more a get quality Australian designer pieces.) I distinctly remember stepping inside my very first Zara store in Saint Germain in Paris, and seeing things I could almost swear black and blue were going to be expensive. Not so. Half an hour later I walked out having paid around a hundred euro (at the time, about $130) for a black, knee-lenth, 100% wool coat. Fast-forward to Nice where I picked up some (nice) suede wedge boots for 50 euros that haven't seen a week go by without me wearing them. And don't even get me started on my classically tailored wool blazer with real silk lapels that is slightly reminiscent of YSL's famed Le Smoking... that cost me about 80 bucks.
We'll have to wait and see, but the message Zara is sending to our retailers seems to be clear - shape up (that is, lower prices or up your product offering), or move out. For far too long we have been ignorantly paying the exorbitant prices set by local retailers because we didn't know any better. We had no choice. Until now. Retailers - be scared, shoppers - rejoice. Zara has arrived.