Whenever conversation should start to flag at any social occasion in Australia, try asking people whether they prefer Melbourne or Sydney.
Then just stand back and watch the sparks fly.
The rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest cities in Australia, has been longstanding and passionate.
According to Sydneysiders, the superiority of their sunny metropolis vis-a-vis Melbourne above all becomes manifest in the better beaches, the better weather, the prettier city centre.
Whereas the Melburnians determined argue that their diverse city outshines Sydney by far.
After all, they have the better coffee, the better art scene and their iconic trams!
Also set aside the all so subjective rivalry talk – one can’t help but remark how greatly these two cities, that lie only an hours flight apart, differ.
Which they also do so greatly when it comes to fashion.
Let’s have a look at the different fashion bias of the two vibrant cities:
On the one hand we have lively Sydney, all dressed in bright colours, sheer pastels and quirky prints. And mind you, lots of labels!
High-contrast to this on the other we find the understated and cynical Melbourne look, made of layer upon layer of all shades of black.
If you’ve ever walked the streets of those two cities you know where I’m coming from.
And in case your feet never touched Aussie ground, take a peek at fabulous fashion blogs Sea of Ghosts http://www.seaofghosts.com to get a taste of Melbourne fashion and Fashion Toast http://www.fashiontoast.com/ for some Sydney style.
Last year the fashionistas of both cites however had one thing in common: they all feverishly awaited the launch of the first stores of fashion giant ZARA to enrich their shopping landscape.
Superficially, the store in Sydney’s Pitt Street didn’t differ too much from it’s Melburnian counterpart on Bourke Street Mall. Same architecture, same interior design, same clothes.
Wait – same clothes?
No, in fact not.
Because that’s exactely where ZARA’s smart concept of tailoring their collections to specific target groups comes in.
Through understanding the various climates, weather-based trends as well as the cultural dimensions influencing the individual fashion choices in the different locations, ZARA succeeds in catering each location with the latest, timely styles and design.
This entails that unlike other competitors that recycle seasonal collections for their various international branches, ZARA produces separate collections targeted specifically at their nothern and southern hemisphere stores.
Short – they always seem to manage to stay in tune with what their customer wants.
How do they do manage to do this, you might wonder.
Well, in fact ZARA employs several smart means in order to find out what their customers in each location want.
Instead of trying to predict consumers’ demands, at ZARA they rather try to capture and learn from the consumers’ purchasing patterns and feedback while in store.
Jesus Echevarria, chief communications officer at ZARA, reports that all the staff is encouraged to talk to their customers constantly and find out what looks are in fashion for each week, which outfit on the catwalk they liked, which celebrity’s get-up they are converting.
In addition, stocktakes on the best-selling styles as well as on the pieces not moving that quickly are being performed on a strict daily basis. All this information is then reported back to the headquarters.
Those daily reports, Echevarria adds, help each store to keep current on popular trends and ease store managers into ordering new stock every two weeks, choosing pieces and designs that will cater each store’s particular customers.
Aside from daily meetings and reports that are designed to help keep tract on what items are selling well and which ones need to be pulled, store managers are also always on the lookout for when a design may suddenly become highly in demand and ensure that the store is properly able to accommodate those demands.
To illustrate, according to a news report in London, when Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William, was spotted by ZARA store managers purchasing a blue dress, stores around the area immediately prepared themselves for a sudden upsurge in interest in that particular piece and, while that item sold out, new stocks quickly arrived within a fortnight.
Another more recent attempt to get an improved grasp of their customers style is the PEOPLE! campaign that ZARA launched first last Spring.
The idea of this campaign is to give customers the chance to show their individual styles and creations incorporating ZARA pieces.
Customers are thus invited to upload photos showing them wearing an outfit that includes at least two items of the current Spring/Summer collections.
If your style is chosen to be featured on the PEOPLE! page, you will get 300€ in return.
A smart way to not only get free photos that could be used for marketing purposes, but also and especially to get a feeling for the current vibes and trends by observing how and with what the participating fashion lovers combine their favorite ZARA pieces.
(Did this make you curious? Join in the fun at https://people.zara.com/ or just get inspired by your fellow fashion addicts creations at http://www.zara.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/category/de/de/zara-S2012/201501/PEOPLE%2B)
Pip Stocks, the founder of BrandHook, an Australian branding and insights consultancy, brings it all down to the point: “At the end of the day, ZARA is all about listening to customers and responding. It’s that simple. Once your customers feel like they re being heard, and their opinions shape your brand, you have secured yourself a loyal fan base.”
And that’s how finally it comes as no surprise, that if you visit ZARA on Bourke St after browsing Sydney’s Pitt Street store, you’ll notice that there are a lot more black items to be found in Melbourne than in Sydney.