Web Exclusive: Is fast home coming?
Jennifer White Karp -- Home Textiles Today, June 6, 2014
New York – Can retailers like Zara take the fast fashion approach to textiles and housewares?
Fast fashion of course refers to the latest apparel designs that are translated from the runway into affordable fashion. Zara in particular is known for moving tens of thousands of styles quickly from runway to store shelves, recreating high-end looks for low prices. The retailer reportedly replenishes stock twice a week.
Through its Zara Home unit, the retailer has been expanding its home furnishings business. According to its home web site – which is separate from its apparel web site -- Zara Home was launched in 2003 and offers bedding, tableware and bath linen, as well as dishware, cutlery, glassware and home decor.
“Zara home is constantly refreshing its product range throughout the year,” the site states. The leader of the fast fashion retailers doing home, Zara Home has 394 stores in 45 markets – but a no physical presence in the U.S., although at least one analyst believes that is about to change. (Zara and other retailers did not respond to a request to comment for this article).
Zara Home launched a store in Canada last year at Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre . And H&M, which launched its home collection online for the U.S. last year, has a physical presence for its home goods in a store in at least one location in Washington D.C.
Testing the waters
Marshal Cohen chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, called it a “natural move” for fast fashion retailers to move further – but cautiously – into home.
“The consumer who is into fashion is interested in their home. They care about the impression they make,” Cohen said. On the logistics side of the equation, he said, these retailers “have the experience of turning product quickly and offering tasteful product at an attractive price.”
Kelly Tackett, an analyst at Planet Retail, described fast fashion retailers as “testing the waters” with their online home furnishings.
“The issue with taking physical space here in the U.S. is that the home furnishings market is oversaturated. However we have seen Zara Home stores are outperforming other formats.”
According to a Planet Retail report posted in March on Zara’s parent company Inditex’s performance in fiscal year 2013, “Zara Home delivered the strongest performance, posting 29% sales growth and bringing in EBIT of 55 million euros (73 million USD), 35% more than in fiscal 2012.
What makes home textiles and housewares a good fit with fast fashion? Tackett said these retailers have the advantage of their sourcing prowess and logistics network that they use to churn out and distribute products around the world.
Additionally, “it’s not much of a risk for them to put products online,” Tackett said. For now in home they are “doing small amounts and refreshing them. They’re not buying a lot of inventory.”
Offering products for the home is a way for these retailers to stand out in a crowded field. “These stores are going up against Forever 21, a powerhouse in the category which does not have home,” she said.
Marketing efforts to bring awareness of home products from Zara Home and H&M appear to curiously quiet, particularly because, as Tackett said, these retailers “intend for their fast fashion customer to be their home furnishings customer. She and her colleagues were not aware of any big effort to communicate the fact that they have a home assortment. “They are going to have to do this better if they want to build brand awareness,” she noted. “One way to do this is a shop within a shop – H&M stores in particular are big enough,” she commented.
As for the separate Zara sites—which seem to lack a link from one to the other, Tackett said this is a remnant of how the business operates overseas. “Going forward, it would be a smart move to integrate the businesses better,” she said.
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