Zara, H&M rock American retail


America‘s Favorite Retail Imports 3/26/09


They’re fast fashion. They’re cheap chic. They’re moving up on America’s favorite places to shop even though they were definitely not made in the U.S.A.

As a piece on points out, consumers here are increasingly drawn to the high style and low prices of chains such as Sweden’s H&M and Spain’s Zara. Others including Uniglo from Japan and Mango from Spain are still relative newcomers that have achieved some success. Another import in the same vein, Topshop from the U.K., is scheduled to open its first store in the U.S. next week in Manhattan.

Zara was the first to make its way to the U.S. market back in 1989. The company uses an in-house design staff, its own factory and tightly controlled distribution network to get new product to the stores in as little as two weeks. This year the chain is looking to add 10 stores in the U.S. It currently has stores in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

H&M, which has 169 U.S. stores, came to the U.S. in 2000 and plans to open 16 new locations in 2009.

“Foreign retailers deliver an [inexpensive] product that is not perceived as a uniform,” Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group, told Forbes. “They offer what you want, when you want it, as well as self-expression through fashion.”

Discussion questions:  What is it that makes Zara, H&M and other apparel retailers from outside the U.S. successful here? Do you see domestic chains picking up ideas and competing more effectively in this area? Is there one – Zara, H&M, Mango, Uniglo or Topshop – that you are particularly impressed with?

My post: 

These retail stars were shining well before the current economics made their formula a darling of the media.  Zara and H&M have been in the US for a while now and not only are their openings huge local “events’, but they seem to maintain their followings of teen to 40-something fans effortlessly as they consistently add small quantities of fun, cool fashions for cheap.  Now Uniqlo and Mango are gaining traction with Topshop coming soon.  American fashion fans are eating up this foreign feast as they have tired of the majority of American specialty and department stores’ miles of boring overstocked sameness.  Simple message:  fun, fast, affordable fashion, constantly refreshed.  Forever 21 is one exception to the rule, but most of American retail now buried in debt and teetering has to wake up to what the customer is looking for.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

Go to the full discussion at


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