Is Zara the new Topshop?

In the mid-2010s, Topshop was the place to be.

(Image: Zoella on YouTube)

Topshop was on the higher end of the highstreet budget, making it an aspirational brand for teenagers up and down the country. The tiny sizes and extortionate price tags make them exclusive, meaning that you had to fit an image of ‘cool’ to shop there.

Topshop was the kind of place that you saved up to visit, eyeing up that fur lined denim jacket and leaving with three for two on socks with funny animals on them. Frilly socks, t-shirts with the lace hem, and Joni jeans where all wardrobe must-haves. They also had their own line of makeup, popularised by OG British vloggers. If Zoe and Gabby could pull off the purple lip, why couldn’t we?

But at some point, perhaps somewhere between the moment we realised Girl Online was ghost-written and when Urban Decay Naked palettes stopped being cool, we stopped shopping there. In 2021, Topshop wheeled out its ‘last chance to buy’ rail for the last time and shut its doors for good.

In a 2017 article from Harper’s Bazaar, a Fashion Demand Report found that Zara saw a 20.8 percent rise in searches compared to the year before, marking the highest increase in public demand of any big-name company. In the same year Topshop dropped by 8 percent in online demand.

Arcadia, the company who owned Topshop, fared poorly in online searches throughout the year of 2016. Searches for Topman were down 17 percent, Miss Selfridge fell 25 percent, and Dorothy Perkins (the only highstreet retailer my small town had) fell by 20 percent. Inditex, the company that owns Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, and Pull & Bear saw a significant rise in consumer demand in the same year. Stradivarius attracted a staggering 66 percent rise.

Fast forward to 2022, and Spanish-owned Inditex are still the market leader. In 2021, revenue from online sales reached €7.5 billion, accounting for 25.5% of total sales. Store and online sales between 1 February and 13 March 2022 were up 33% compared with the same period of 2021 and up 21% from the record pre-Covid levels of 2019.

Ask any woman between the age of 13-30 where her jeans are from, and you are likely to find one of Inditex’s brands being the answer. Either that, or they are still clutching their Joni jeans for dear life. The Inditex brands are also known to be good quality yet affordable. Zara is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, but for basic items like crop tops, they are comparable with H&M and New Look.

Like Topshop, Zara is also known for its additional lines alongside clothing. Zara perfumes are popular and affordable, and Zara Home bridges the gap between Ikea and Oliver Bonas. In May 2021, Zara launched its first beauty line, ZARA Beauty.

However, Zara hasn’t escaped its share of controversies. A quick search online reveals child labour scandals, copyright infringement, and allegations of anti-Palestinian bullying. Zara has an incredibly fast turnaround for new items coming into stores, meaning that while they hit all the latest trends, they are not the most ethical.

With the fashion industry changing so rapidly, it is not clear how long Zara will be the ‘it girl’ of the high street. Social media influencers have us in a much tighter chokehold than we realise, meaning the high street really is at risk.