PARIS — What started at Spain’s Inditex as a side operation to off-load unsold stock from its flagship Zara chain has turned into a growing business, as cost-conscious customers tighten their belts even further.
The opening of two Lefties stores in France earlier this year has marked Inditex’s third foray into international markets after Portugal and Mexico, where the company has built a strong presence thanks to either its geographical or cultural proximity.
Lefties openings have followed the growth of Zara’s stores network and reflect a strong business in France, said a company spokesman.
Like all other Lefties stores, the two French outlets — one in Paris and the other in Bordeaux — previously traded as Zara stores. The Parisian Lefties is located in the Maine-Montparnasse shopping mall. Given its proximity to the busy Montparnasse train station, it competes with several low-cost fashion retailers in the area, with T-shirts starting at 7 euros, or $9.70 at current exchange, and more expensive items like linen-mix blouses priced at 19.99 euros, or $27.87.
While Zara stores are notable for their attractive displays and flawless lighting, Lefties sport a more spartan and utilitarian look, with basic fitting rooms and crowded racks. This extends to a basic white logo on a red background and plastic carrier bags, as opposed to the paper totes normally offered by Zara.
The first Lefties stores opened in Spain in 1995, as Inditex began expanding and needed outlets to sell unsold or damaged apparel without openly linking the outlets to the Zara brand.
Unlike other fashion retailers, which ship old collections to out-of-town outlets, Inditex began converting centrally located Zara stores into the Lefties banner.
The stores also carry own-branded collections of T-shirts, simple cotton dresses and jeans. Inditex says the addition of these items make Lefties “more appealing to the customers.”
But industry observers point out the move also reflects the entrance into the Spanish market of low-cost competitors, such as Primark. The Ireland-based company, best known for selling T-shirts for as low as $5, opened its first Spanish store in May 2006. Operating in Ireland, the U.K. and Germany as well as Spain, Primark rapidly has gained market share due to its ability to source cheaply and to make clothes with simple designs and fabrics.
Since 1995, the number of Lefties’ stores in Spain has ballooned to 60, with a further 15 in Portugal and one in Mexico, before the opening of the two outlets in France. According to Inditex, the number of openings varies each year, since there is no specific expansion plan for the banner, unlike the other brands owned by the company.
The number of openings depends on real estate opportunities, Inditex said, adding it has no new openings planned in France beyond the stores in Paris and Bordeaux.
But there could be a chance it may change its mind, as shoppers in France become more and more cost conscious. According to the French Fashion Institute, apparel sales in France dropped 5 percent last year, and 4 percent in the first quarter of this year, as French consumers reduced discretionary spending in the current economic downturn.
“As Inditex develops in its various geographic markets, it will keep opening new Lefties stores,” said Sanford Bernstein analyst Luca Solca.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews