Carlos Crespo

PARIS — Pablo Isla, executive chairman and chief executive officer of Zara-owner Inditex, has chosen his top lieutenant, the group’s chief operating officer Carlos Crespo, to become chief executive officer, picking a company insider for the ongoing push into the digital sphere.

Crespo’s track record “made this promotion the natural next step,” said the Spanish, fast-fashion retailer, which also owns labels Massimo Dutti and Pull&Bear, in a statement Thursday.

The 48-year-old executive has been doing “excellent work in several areas of the company in his capacity as coo and his contribution will be vital ‘at a time marked by Inditex’s strategic digital transformation and far-reaching commitment to sustainability,’” the company said in a statement, quoting Isla.

Crespo has been heavily involved with the group’s digital transformation; the retailer has been investing robustly in technology, moving ahead of rivals with state-of-the-art logistics systems and a range of online services.

Seeking to offer same-day delivery in major urban centers, and next-day delivery elsewhere, Inditex has set a goal of offering Internet sales everywhere in the world by next year.

Following a vast expansion drive, resulting in thousands of stores around the world — mostly under the Zara label — the group in 2012 began to revisit the brick-and-mortar network, outfitting it for an e-commerce era.

This has included culling underperforming stores and sprucing up flagships, with a focus on choice real estate — setting up shop in New York’s Hudson Yards in March, for example — while bulking up services like in-store pickups or returns of online purchases. It is also rolling out radio frequency identification systems to track inventory, already in place at Zara, Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe labels, and slated for completion next year.

While many rivals have been swept into discounting measures to unload stocks, Inditex has kept its focus on curbing price cuts to maintain margins.The company slightly missed earnings expectations last quarter, disappointing investors and prompting some analysts to lower their projections, even while they pointed to logistics investments as likely paying off in the future.

Crespo’s appointment will be submitted to a vote by the board as well as a shareholder vote at the annual general meeting in July.

In his new position, Crespo will report to Isla, and take responsibility for a number of areas including technology, IT security, logistics, construction and works and sustainability issues.

Crespo began his career in auditing and joined Inditex in 2001 in the finance department. He has been coo since last year. At the annual meeting in July, shareholders will also vote on the reelection of Isla as executive chairman. The Spanish lawyer became ceo in 2005, rising from deputy chairman to replacing founder Amancio Ortega as chairman in 2011.

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