Harriet Walker: Watch out, the Spanish have staked their claim on the great British high street

Covering all bases, it's no surprise Zara has gone from strength to strength
  • @harrywalker1

The high street has become something of a latterday empire for us Brits; we’ve ruled the waves with brands such as Topshop and Marks & Spencer for decades, but recently there’s been a shift. The Swedes arrived, then the French – and now it seems the Spanish too have staked their claim on our territories.

That Zara has been chosen the most popular shop on the high street by British women is not much of a surprise. Some of our most dearly loved homegrown shops have become polarised according to age and price in recent years, while Zara has gone from strength to strength, covering all bases, ticking off all the trends, and keeping prices and quality in relative proportion.

It stocks workwear and office staples, homely basics, occasionwear and almost everything in between at a level of ‘fashionability’ that attracts a sophisticated urban shopper without scaring off those who don’t consider themselves among the cool cognoscenti. Accessories are strong too: there is a certain leather tote bag for sale at the moment that currently takes up more space per square foot of town centres than cars or pushchairs, it has been so popular.

Zara’s great tactic has been to shadow the mood of the most high-end catwalks without copying styles overtly and thereby rendering them faddy or short of shelf-life. Minimal separates and sharp tailoring make for practical modern classics with longevity, while a focus on neutral shades, monochrome and well-worn khakis and burgundies ensure purchases are accessible, and that they last beyond a single season.

But the main reason for Zara’s success is perhaps to have targeted the tastes and wallets of a slightly more mature clientele – that is, not teenagers. By that logic, Zara reels in those customers first learning how to spend their paypackets, and will keep them in its clutches for the next decade or so.