European apparel retailer Zara plans to launch expanded online sales of its products to an additional 106 countries, giving it sales channels through physical stores or online in a total of 202 countries worldwide, according to a press release Wednesday from parent company Inditex.
Many of the new international markets being served in the online push are in Africa, including Angola, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana. Other markets the retailer is pushing into include parts of Indonesia and the Caribbean, the company said.
Zara noted that has the capability to process online sales at physical stores, which it has in 96 markets, as well as buy online, pickup in store capabilities. Spain would act as a fulfillment hub for the online orders, with orders reaching destinations in three to seven days, the company noted. Inditex also said online shoppers could buy items using "popular payment methods such as PayPal and all the main credit cards."
This news comes about a month and a half after Inditex, talked up a grand plan to have all of its brands available online worldwide by 2020, even in countries where it does not have brick-and-mortar stores. There is certainly a new boldness among retailers of all kinds to develop expansive cross-border sales strategies, and Zara is just the latest to do so.
The retailer also has been pursuing an increased effort to use its physical stores for online order fulfillment and is working toward a pledge for next-day delivery. Similar strategies have become a key to success over the last year for retailers such as Kohl's, though these strategies do present operational challenges.
These are aggressive moves by Zara as it tries to win share of an apparel market that is increasingly moving online. Zara also seems as driven to enter new markets via the internet as it is to use technology innovations, such as augmented reality, that are promising, if relatively unproven.
At some stage in the past, these moves might have seemed like gambles that were too big and too risky for an apparel retailer to take. But in a changing market, Zara and others need to make sure they don't make the same mistakes that J. Crew made in failing to innovate and follow where customer demand seems to be taking them.