SA's steady retail revival welcomes the expansion of Zara's flagship store at the V&A Waterfront

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(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
  • In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic saw multiple retail store closures, while also forcing innovation for those remaining.
  • Major Spanish retail outlet, Zara, announced upcoming store closures over the next few years amid the pandemic last year, but this does not mark the end for the retailer and it seemingly does not pose a threat to South Africa. 
  • Zara is currently refurbishing and enlarging its flagship store at Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre in Cape Town in order to make it the brand's newest concept store in South Africa and will reopen later this year. 

The news of Zara-owner Inditex's plans to close more than 1000 stores around the world, caused much panic on the internet in 2020. Not to mention, the thought of threatened livelihoods of Zara employees.

However, there was more to the story than meets the headline, as the scheduled store closures around the world are said to be in favour of a transition to e-commerce. Reassuringly for us, The Guardian also reported that "closures are expected to be concentrated in Asia and Europe." 

Reuters reported that Inditex, booked its first quarterly loss as the coronavirus crisis forced it to shut most shops, but its shares rose after it unveiled a 2.7 billion euro plan to accelerate its focus on large stores and online sales. This is after the Spanish company was forced to shut almost 90 percent of its stores from February to April 2020.

Inditex aims to focus on its online business and large stores in prime shopping areas while closing around 1000 of its smaller stores. It expects virtual sales to account for more than a quarter (25 percent) of business by 2022, compared to their current 14 percent. Larger stores will therefore act as distribution hubs for online sales.  

This is why Zara is currently refurbishing and enlarging its flagship store at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in order to make it the brand's newest concept store in South Africa, offering a fully integrated experience with www.zara.com.   

There are currently eight Zara stores in South Africa, a Zara Home store at the Mall of Africa, in addition to the Spanish retailer being available online to local shoppers since 2019 - eight years after establishing a presence in the country.

READ MORE: Zara commits to sustainability by 2025 - what will that mean for you? 

So in line with Zara's commitment to South Africa, the brand is investing in this high quality, digitalised and differentiated store - by expanding the store to approximately 2700 square meters - to feature the latest sustainability and technological developments of its integrated store and online sales platform. 

This extended store is being designed according to the brand's new global concept, highlighting flowing curved lines that enable continuous engagement with the fashions on display. Zara boasts that it can be described in three words; "simple, sophisticated and refined."

Sleek white surface running across the ceilings and walls are the interior notes that will create a backdrop that enhances each collection. The Zara team further reveals that their refurbished store will be a "warm and natural environment with pockets of greenery which represent the idiosyncrasy of the brand linked to the type of product and its sustainability standards, inviting customers to enjoy a holistic shopping experience." 

Zara's sustainability efforts see the Spanish retailer continue to execute their environmental transformation plan – having met their 2020 target to make all their stores eco-efficient. This new space is therefore connected to the company's central energy efficiency control system, Inergy. 

In addition to this, part of the furnishings are made from biomass and new areas are will be allocated for cardboard and gently worn clothing to be recycled.

But that's not all. 

The in-store Customer Experience areas will offer new convenience spaces such including a showroom and a fitting room waiting area. So maybe a little something like this? 

Zara shop in Preciados street in Madrid, Spain. (P
Zara shop in Preciados street in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images) 

Add to that, a fully fitted Beauty section similar to the likes of its retail counterparts; Woolworths, Edgars, Foschini, and Truworths. This new Beauty section will offer shoppers a unique immersive experience complete with personalised beauty advice.

READ MORE: We don't have Ulta Beauty, but thanks to Woolworths we can now access virtual makeup try on services

Shoppers can experience this Beauty section on the ground floor singled out by colour-matching flooring, walls and ceilings, in contrast with the stainless steel trays that highlight the new product lines developed in collaboration with Diane Kendal. 

Here, we detail 6 more retail innovations and re-entries we've seen over the 2020/2021 period:  

Hi there, StyleMode

The need to reconsider outdated business models made itself apparent in retail long before Covid-19, which is probably why StyleMode considered 2020 a time ripe as any to open up (virtual) shop in SA last October.  

Powered by Loot.co.za - SA's new fashion e-tailer, StyleMode – instead of dipping a toe in, is taking a dive into waters that are already warm, given the stats of our bubbling online retail industry.

They entered the market with a range of brands across apparel, footwear, accessories and a plus-size range – all at a price point that will suit most pockets in our country's economy.

READ MORE: SA welcomes a new online fashion portal as brick-and-mortar retail ebbs and eCommerce flows     

An EGG-citing innovation 

Born with a vision to “reimagine retail,” a 2 700-square-metre space - EGG - opened at Cavendish Square in Claremont, Cape Town, housing 250 local and international brands across the categories of fashion, beauty, living, streetwear and sneakers, accessories and jewellery, and even food.   

The store promises shoppers a unique, “phygital” omni-channel experience.  

As reported by BizCommunity, the next three years will see three more EGG stores launch in South Africa - one at The Zone @ Rosebank and Bedford Centre in Johannesburg, and another at Gateway Mall in Durban. 

A first for South Africa

Chanel unveiled its new fragrance and beauty boutique at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in December 2020. 

Dedicated to fragrance, makeup and skincare, this boutique brings Chanel Beauty into a new dimension for South Africa, reinforcing the ties between the House and its clients.

The 61sqm space will feature the first standalone pop-up concept for South Africa, and was projected to expand to 106sqm in 2021. This year, Sandton City has since welcomed the second Chanel Beautique in the country.

READ MORE: Chanel unveils its first-ever perfume and beauty boutique in SA at the V&A Waterfront

GAP returns to South Africa

Launching in the country’s largest shopping center, Gap opened its doors on 26 November 2020 at the Mall of Africa with the brand’s Summer and Fall collections for men, women, kids, toddlers, and infants. 

“Since we exited the market in 2017, it has been a priority to evaluate future partnerships for Gap in South Africa and to restore confidence in our loyal Gap customer base. By partnering with Hyvec Group, we are opening an exciting chapter in our growth strategy and are incredibly energised about what the future holds,” said Roy Hunt, SVP of Inc. Franchise & Strategic Alliances.    

After the store opening in Mall of Africa, the Hyvec Group plans to carry out a sustained national growth plan with additional store openings in South Africa, as well as the Bagatelle Mall in Mauritius.  

Welcome back, MANGO 

While South Africa has been lamenting a potential retail apocalypse since the likes of Stuttafords, River Island, Nine West, Topshop, and the Platinum Group stores all shut their doors for good and left our malls, it would appear Spanish retailer, MANGO, had been doing some work to cement a return to SA.  

Fast forward some three years later, and MANGO is a standalone store on our shores once again. 

While it's unclear as to why exactly the fashion retailer returned to Mzansi, with their revival, the brand is consolidating its presence in Africa, where MANGO is present with 52 retail outlets, four of which are megastores. 

Welcome, Desigual

Founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1984, Desigual - in a rather optimistic move - opened its doors in Sandton City for the very first time in SA, in September 2020.

Desigual’s first store in South Africa carries collections from the Woman, Accessories and Shoes categories. As has been the norm since the launch of the new brand image in 2019, Desigual is using this store to showcase its new corporate identity and shopping experience. 

As the Spanish fashion brand's Channels Director Jordi Balsells explains; “The South African market has an intriguing potential for growth. The qualities of our collections, such as the vibrant colours, the diversity of the materials and the uniqueness of the designs, match a style that will resonate with local consumers and which, combined with the Desigual DNA, has the potential to build a very strong connection with customers. 

Desigual hopes to open a second store on our shores in the near future at the V&A Waterfront where the Zara flagship store and Chanel Beauty's first-ever SA boutique are also located.

Additional information provided by Zara South Africa

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