Zara opened a flagship at the eastern end of Oxford Street on Friday, which is supposed to have a more industrial/factory-like feel to it.

Zara opened a ‘flagship’ at the eastern end of Oxford Street on Friday, which we are informed is supposed to have a more industrial/factory-like feel to it, in deference to its immediate surroundings.

There are several things that might be said about this. Firstly, it appears that Zara has more than one flagship on the strip with a similarly sized outpost at the street’s western end, in the Park House development and now this one.

No problem really, other than that it defeats the notion of what a flagship should be in terms of leading a fleet. Then there is the little matter of the industrial nature of Oxford Street east. Even allowing for Victorian sweatshops, it is actually quite hard to picture this part of London as industrial. True, the rag trade had its headquarters nearby, but that too is largely a thing of the past and now, from Soho to Fitzrovia, this is a well-heeled ‘hood that is home to media outfits and posh hotels, as well as a few shops…

But the most difficult part of what appears a simple statement is perhaps the nature of what being ‘industrial’ in a store actually means these days. Head into this new Zara and it becomes apparent that the translation for this is quite a lot of shiny metal and floors that are uncarpeted. Add to this some bare concrete pillars and a brace of very large video screens behind the cash desks and it’s job done – ‘industrial’.

Having worked in a number of factories, ahem, some time ago, and subsequently toured many more, there are almost none that resembled Zara on Oxford Street. Even in the most high-tech, there was none of the leisure and slickness that characterises what has been done in this location.

Industrial, it seems, is a term used not just imprecisely but almost lazily by retailers when they just mean a palette of materials that is somewhat harder edged than might be the case in other stores. Once more, there is nothing wrong with this, but a rather more accurate description of what has been done by Inditex in Oxford Street east might be ‘We’ve opened a big store that aims to provide an environment for the younger fashion shoppers found at this end of the street and changed the internal appearance in consequence’.  

Breaking news therefore. Zara has opened a new shop on Oxford Street. It is good and it changes the retail dynamic of the area, but it’s nothing like a factory.