So fresh is the store that the smell of the thick white paint still lingers. After much ado, Zara opens in Melbourne today and, featuring a layout they’re yet to roll out to all their other stores globally, escalators will whisk thousands of shoppers a day through three floors and across what are actually four separate buildings. Having walked through Zara’s new Melbourne store I can tell you much. The first thing to say that is it’s huge. Not as huge as the Zara stores that you’ll find around the corner from Milan’s Duomo, but of a scale that is normally reserved solely for department stores in Australia.
And that’s the second thing that’s worth relating, particularly to Fashionising.com’s international readers. Zara’s presence in Australia is going to be massive. They’re going to change things. In other countries where Zara’s stores are common that’s going to be hard to relate to, but in Australia the high street has none of the H&M’s or other giants that dominate the globe. In Australia the retail fashion scene at the middle market level has always lacked two things: heavy competition and a low price point (fashion in Australia costs far more than other parts of the world, even on the high street). Zara are primed on both of these points.
Thus to say they’re going to bring fresh competition to the scene is to understate what they’ll do, and right now I’d hate to be one of their immediate competitors. But despite the fact that as I pen this there is a queue of people waiting to get into Zara (note: no opening specials, just an opening of doors) there are still things that the retailer has gotten wrong in Melbourne.
Their women’s appears mostly right. It competes on style and it competes on price point, and it’s the latter where the greater impact will be felt in Australia – they’re undercutting most everyone else’s prices at their end of the market. With a whole floor dedicated to it, there is something for just about every woman irrespective of shape, size or budget. With their sizing model done right (small sizes galore – a necessity for Melbourne’s inner city retail) it’s Zara’s womenswear as you’d encounter it elsewhere in the world. Right down to the puffer jackets, which have no logical place in Melbourne. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever seen someone wear one in Melbourne, but perhaps I’ve simply blocked them from my mind.
Positive for women’s, not so for men’s however. Zara have done their men’s style right. Highly influenced by the dominant men’s trends (there’s more than a hint of the end of this year’s autumn / fall 2011 catwalks in the offering) it’s a look that Melbourne gents will appreciate and one not easily found for men at the high street at this quality and price mix. That’s the good, the bad is this: good luck buying it if you’re slim. And I say slim, not slight or skinny. I’m not a slight lad but the mix of men’s clothing Zara have brought into their Melbourne store simply ignores a big chunk of their potential customers. What they’ve stocked will sell, so they mightn’t even notice, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything in men’s in a small. There are no 36 inch chests and no small jumpers on offer. What is on offer is the sales assistants telling you “Oh medium is the new small”. It’s not. Not for me, not for anyone of my size, and certainly not for the thousands of slimmer Far Eastern students who drive Melbourne’s retail scene. Until Zara gets its men’s sizing right in Australia, this city is not going to find the slim cut they love within its walls.
You can see Zara’s Melbourne women’s and men’s opening collections by following those links. If you want to see inside the store without lining up, all you have to do is click on the thumbnails below and browse through the gallery.