The non-obsessives will be skeptical and wonder why so much time and energy is spent on figuring out how to shop at a store. Seems weird. But since there are studies, courses and classes done based on Zara’s business model and they are the most unique clothing brand – faster than fast fashion with zero advertising costs (I and every other blogger is paid a grand total of zilch to write and publish this article), lets give them, and me, the benefit of the doubt. They must be doing something right. Also, since they work differently, shopping at Zara is different from shopping at any other fast fashion store (think H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, River Island and so on).
I have been shopping at Zara for years. I have read about them, asked them questions, complained to their customer service team and been a general pain in the neck. But I keep going back since I have found the most efficient way to shop there. And of course, I am addicted.
But let me clarify. Its not all rainbows and unicorns. I have a major love-hate relationship with Zara. But this is what I learnt.
- Shopping the sales
Most Zara stores have sales twice a year. You have to know how to work the sales. For instance, when I lived in Bombay, I concentrated on the winter sales. Obviously, summer is big in Bombay so it was too crowded and pretty pointless – the chances of finding items you like, in your size are remote. So I skipped the summer sales. The only time people shop in winter is to buy coats (rarely the case in Bombay) or buy party dresses for the Christmas and New Year which wasn’t what I was shopping for anyway.
I quickly changes my strategy once I moved to London. Winter sales in London are a special hell. Also, by the time the winter sale rolls by, you have already made your major winter purchases for the year (jumpers, coats, jackets and boots). So in London, I avoid the winter sale and shop the summer one.
2. Skip for essential clothing
Some of the articles I linked, vehemently claim you should buy essential clothing from Zara. Unless this is very very very (note the three verys) cheap during the sales, cotton tees and shirts should not be purchased from Zara. This is logical. Know what Zara is good for – for bringing runway items to the high street. Not for making quality basics. If you want quality basics go to Uniqlo or the Gap or any local market in India. Zara’s cotton and viscose tees fall apart in a few washes which do not justify the slightly higher than Gap price tag – avoid.
3. Stick for essential accessories
Zara makes certain essential items every season – a number of tees, office pumps, shopping totes, leather or faux leather jackets etc.
Shopping totes or your daily office bag – great in Zara. You will get items that look better than some designer brands and last longer whether real or faux leather. But like Garance in the first article says, avoid the blatant Celine and Chloe copies. Its really not necessary and makes even your £100 bag look cheap.
The faux leather jackets are great too. They are quintessential Zara – look more expensive and polished than similar items in most other high street (and I dare say, designer) brands.
Zara has a couple of office pumps every season – do not buy. Refer to rule 4 below.
Skip for heels and pick for flats. Two of the four flat shoes I own are from Zara and two of the hundred heels I own are from Zara (actually three counting these which I haven’t worn yet). The flats are great quality and look smart – the only ones I dare to wear to work. The heels make me irritated and totter – I don’t wear them at all anymore. Heels should always be comfortable (yes, really) and stable. Zara’s are not.
5. Know your store
Zara gets new stock every other week and some items in between. Although some articles seem to suggest Tuesday and Thursday are the glory days, find out for yourself. Different stores in different countries have different days when they expect new stock. Ask the shop assistants – they will be more than happy to tell you (although they wont tell you when the sale starts!).
6. Know where to shop
This may or may not be obvious. Like most other brands, Zara picks and chooses what to send where. The most basic way to illustrate this is don’t look for a woolen coat in the Bombay store and don’t look for bikinis in London after August and so on.
The other part of where to shop is if you are going to Spain, stop shopping in your local Zara at once. Even in Europe, between all the countries using the Euro, Spain is the cheapest. Go crazy. Its not getting better than this. Sadly, London is possibly one of the worst places to shop in Zara.
7. Online Shopping
Zara’s online store pretty much functions as a different store. The most efficient thing to do is to order online to the store – its free to collect from the store but charged if you get it delivered home unless its above the minimum order amount. When you go to collect, open the package – do not bring it back home without trying or having a look at the item for real.
One caution against the online shopping – Zara calculates the refund timeline from the time the order is made, not when the item is delivered to the store or to you. Once you are past the time limit, you will need to return by post and cannot return it to the store.
8. Be skeptical
Zara has better styling than most designer brands. Everything Zara sells looks great online, modelled by its cool, skinny, six feet tall models (I am bitter, I can’t help it).
Now I am not saying you are not cool, but even the most ridiculous item looks cool on their website, especially together with that vest and fringe boots and crossbody bag the model is wearing. Which suits nothing else in your closet. Do not commit to an outlandish skirt or long shapeless dress without a rethink.
9. No kidding – look at their kids clothes (and shoes)
I have given up being embarrassed about it. You might as well make use of your petite size
10. Know when to shop the sale and when to pay full price
On principal, I do not pay full price for anything I buy on Zara. One exception I made was this coat.
This requires some amount of judgement and discretion. Every season there is an ‘It’ item in Zara. This is sold out in a week. In most cases this is an item a celebrity (I use the term loosely) was seen wearing or carrying. And due to Zara’s fast cycle it is difficult to find it later. If you are able to exercise some amount of discretion and judgement, it’s useful. A guideline to follow would be very trendy items seen on every high street store is not it – think button down suede skirts. An item not found in other high street stores is the best bet. Like my coat.
However, Zara seems to have changed some of its core practices. It has the same item which were popular made again and sold which was not the way it worked before. ‘When its gone, its gone’ was the mantra. However, the same items which are remade for the next season are usually at a higher price. This leather dress and these metallic pumps are some of the items that come to mind. But I have a feeling they are not going to continue with this practice since both these items ended up on sale – so don’t bank on this for any items you have your heart set on.
And that it for now. Happy shopping people! Also, would love to know if any of these tips helped you shop smarter, better and more efficiently or were you just ‘forget it! I am picking up those heels anyway!’? Are you a Zara pro shopper? A Zara obsessive? I would love to know your stories and if you have a Zara obsessed friends – please share and pass this post on! And for my complete London shopping guide – this way!
The photographs used on this post belong to and are from the Zara website.