Talk Skirty to Me: Why Zara and Topshop are imperfect, but important

(West) Australian retail is changing. International retailers are setting up shop – namely, Spanish giant ZARA, and British icon Topshop.

I am a dedicated lover of fashion. I love clothes and accessories – the colours, the cuts, the textures (oh my!).
I am not so much a seasonal buyer (I have a tendency to buy dresses in winter, and coats and jeans in summer much to my Mother’s confusion!). This year, I have found myself moving away from ‘trend’ shopping; even more so now I have read “To Die For” by Lucy Siegle.

European and foreign retailers will challenge the Australian retail market fantastically.

I was tempted to title this article “The European Invasion” or something of that ilk, but when I think about it, and review the (overwhelmigly) positive response to ZARA and Topshop in Perth – it’s not an invasion if we (WA consumers) wanted it. We yearned for more international retailers.


In roughly the last 5-8 years: Chanel, Miu Miu, Prada, Tiffany and Co., Louis Vuitton, ZARA and Topshop have all set up shop in Perth City. This is incredible for a State with a total population of 2.5 million.


This is not an Australian fashion revolution. ZARA and Topshop are merely following suit, given those retailers who have come before them. Perth is becoming globally recognised on a grass roots market level, as a financially viable location for global brands to invest in.
WA is an expensive place – and we are worth the money, worth investing in now.

What will happen to Australian Retail?

ZARA and Topshop are the middle market now. Australian retail until now has been David Jones and high-end brands, or Kmart and Target at the lower end. Not dirt cheap, not super expensive, but more interesting – so instead of a ‘European Invasion’ it is a ‘European Wedge’ – the starting ‘slab’ on which many other international retailers will build, and a polarising force in Australian retail – competition like our market has never known before.

Capitalism, everybody.

Consumers now have a choice; not only in the range of garments they can pick from and how much they spend, but where their money really goes.

Will we pay for the genuine (higher priced) article, or for the fast fashion knock off?
It’s all about materials. Are we willing to fork out for leather, silk, cotton, furs (touchy issue, I know) over their synthetically produced replica?
It’s an item by item thing – I don’t own any real furs, but I’d baulk at paying $220 for a bag that is 70% Polyurethane, 30% cow leather.


Will local deisgners survive or flail?
WA has some incredible talent, a few which I follow – Poppy Lissiman, Steph Audino, Jamie Lee Major, Tarvydas, Aurelio Costarella, Emily Liewen, Convict, Sunday Avenue, Monster Alphabets.
I love local designers. They have such flair! Perhaps (I really hope!) with more chain retailers, their products will become even more distinctive, and consumers will recognise the hard work that deisngers go to to produce fabulous products. Buying local can be exxy, but I think it is worth the investment if it is a good piece.


Check the tags.
Check the tag when you buy something, check the material, the place it was made and then ponder the price. That’s all I’ll say. With more retailers comes more power for the consumer. If you don’t want your money going somewhere, or you aren’t comfortable not knowing where exactly it is going – then you can make that choice to buy it or to leave it.


Department stores will have to stand up, or step down.
With the middle market now now filled by the ‘European Wedge’ , our two major Department stores, MYER and David Jones have decisions to make. Will they go more upmarket? or become more mass market?
Which products and designers they stock will be re-evaluated, there could be re-brandings (MYER’s “Find Wonderful” for example!), their layouts, their approach to customer service etc. There will be some big changes, MYER and David Jones will have to decide on which side of the ‘wedge’ to place themselves, and adjust their marketing accordingly.

David Jones has recently undertaken some refurbishments, and taken on some new brands in the last year — so they are looking to go more up market. Also, their recent merger/takeover with Woolworths (South Africa) could see some organisational changes too.

MYER looks to be rebranding under the “Find Wonderful” campaign. Both MYER and David Jones have copped the hard knocks of the peaks and troughs of retail expenditure. Sales are no longer twice a year, there is ALWAYS something on sale somewhere.


Retail markups.
They will either be huge, or will reduce (cheaper products = more buyers = more competition). It’s always been the bittersweet pill for the fashionista to swallow, if he or she loves designer and luxury goods, or foreign labels (or if you’re me, online shopping!). Australia’s geography, let alone Perth isolation, is a blessing and a curse! Shipping and taxes will always sting, so consumers who have travelled far and wide may find that say London’s ZARA is a bit cheaper than Perth ZARA because of transport costs/import taxes.


Customer Service.
CS has become a bit of a slippery fish in today’s market. It’s less prevalent because the focus for many retailers has been profit, and not losing money each financial quarter. From my own observations going into ZARA, and chatting to a friend (who was interviewed for a position at Topshop) the floor staff are there to stay at the register, the changerooms or tidy the floor. They are not waiting idly (like I did for four years at David Jones, 6 months at Rodd & Gunn, and 3 months at Diva) to approach a customer (“Hi can I help you today?”).

To be honest, customer service killed customer service. The very act of apporaching (most) customers heralds the response “Just having a look/browse/gander” – so now (most) customers are identified as independent entities with specific tastes, capable of making their own choices and only VERY occasionally asking for help. Australian/WA consumers will be a bit affronted by the lesser attention to CS; fast fashion means it is more about the product and its consumption, less about customer service.

H&M are sure to follow, maybe Primark? Alto Mode? GAP? Promod?

Tell me what you think!

@thetangibleblog on Insta and Twitter. The Tangible Blog on Facebook.
Your well-shod author,

A x

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