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12,126 $m

Once hailed as "possibly the most innovative and devastating retailer," Zara, the leading purveyor of inexpensive fashion, appears to be shifting its positioning from affordable chic to fashion front-runner. The secret to its success stems from Zara's vertically integrated management of its supply-chain, which enables the brand to deliver up-to-the-minute looks to consumers within days. Simply put, Zara is able to provide high fashion for all-and fast. While 2014 was not Zara's most profitable year-parent company Inditex registered a flat core profit of 3.9 billion euros in 2013 (its weakest growth since 2001)-investment in its future may be the reason. Zara is updating more than 100 of its stores and such stores can be closed for up to four months during renovation. The store experience remains Zara's hallmark and investment in stores is its key strategy to generating long-term growth. It aims to launch 500 new stores in this year alone. 

Unlike its competitors, Zara has not engaged in collaborations with upscale designer labels, it is not particularly active on social media, and it does not invest much in traditional advertising. Instead, Zara has developed a slick, well curated, and rapidly expanding e-commerce platform, available in 27 countries. In the past year, according to Dana Telsey of the Telsey Advisory Group, a stock research firm, the brand has also expanded its customer base "toward more influential consumers" to "gain awareness and build market share." The brand has become so skilled at adapting the most covetable runway looks that it is indeed turning heads in high places. Increasingly emulating high-end brands with clean lines, sometimes nearly indistinguishable from the real deal, Zara's embrace of minimalism has won the brand a following of key tastemakers. Despite an unremarkable year financially, Zara's success will, no doubt, continue.

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