The Man From Zara book review: An entrepreneur’s perspective

The Man from Zara: The Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex GroupThe man from Zara by Covadonga O’shea

I promised to share a book review every week from the perspective of an entrepreneur. This week I will share what I got from The Man From Zara. This is the story of Zara and how the world’s most successful fashion retailer was born. I usually look out for topics such value creation, marketing, sales, culture and innovation. My notes are usually written as TO-DO’s. You can get the bookThe Man from Zara: The Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex Group here!

Context Zara is the world’s most successful fashion retailer and Amancio Ortega has done an awesome job of building one of the strongest brands in the world. What I appreciated most about the book is Ortega’s focus on producing beautifully designed clothes at affordable rates. I also found it interesting that he has dominated the world in fashion retail without having to learn to speak English or move his headquarters to any of the world’s fashion capitals.

What made Zara successful?

Investing in the latest trends
A quick turn around on production: Stock turnover twice a week
Create a limited supply
Excellent location of shops
Focus on the customer
Extremely careful merchandising
Good quality clothing
Exquisite customer service
Effective logistics and distribution
Learning from their mistakes

Qualms The book is not as deep into the story of Amancio Ortega or Zara as it could have been. You may end up skipping some paragraphs as the author talks about her experiences. However to her credit, Covadonga O’Shea seems to be very observant and this shows in her monologues.

My notes according to the book Zara believes in studying human behavior and trends. Their speed and efficiency is novel. Bringing well-made clothing within the reach of a large proportion of the population has worked well for Zara. In what fields can I be an expert? Amancio Ortega is an expert at fashion merchandising.

What am I a force of nature at?

Zara targets middle class women and that’s 78% of their income. Pull and Bear is owned by Zara and that brand is supplying casual clothing to under young people under 25 years old. Massimo Dutti; another Zara owned brand targets customers of both sexes in the medium to high income bracket Berskha’ another Zara owned brand for disco frequenting teens

Fun fact: For years Ortega refused to take pictures, even with the author of the book because he prefers a quiet life. He did not want to be the billionaire who cannot walk down the street because everyone knows him.

One of Zara’s strengths comes from their vertical integration. This plays out in textiles, fabrication, logistics, marketing, construction, real estate, finance and power generation. Gap and H&M are competitors who design and sell but do not manufacture unlike Zara. Benetton designs and manufactures but sells through franchisees. Ortega leases some stores. Four points to note : flexibility of supply , instant absorption of market demand, response speed and technological innovation.

Zara’s marketing genius is that their strategy has re-educated a customer who was used to buying late to adapting to a climate of scarcity and opportunity. Zara shops are stocked twice a week in Europe so the fear of missing out works in Zara’s favor.

One of Zara’s greatest innovations is actually an immense benefit for the customer. The status quo was two collections a year. Ortega did as many as he could for the customer. Decisions are made by those closest to the customer and Ortega picks which strategy works best. Cutting was done in the factory and given to workshops or women in flats who work on individual parts of the outfit.


The book talks about Castellano’ Ortega’s former right hand man. Ortega has deep insight in commercial, product, merchandising and retail ideas. Castellano was a genius at the financial and corporate side of the business. This strengthened my belief that most entrepreneurs need to partner with someone who is well versed in corporate, sales and financial matters if they themselves are not. Focus on the business. Focus on excellence in standards. Have ambitious goals greater than everyone else.

Fun Fact: Ortega is a giver and the book professes that he is a Christian.

You always mess up the competition when you give the market what they need.

China, Korea, Singapore,Vietnam, Boston,Washington,Chicago, San Francisco were the places he was interested in at least partially Eastern European women like clothes more than anything. Slavic women like to show off. What’s the mentality of my target? Combined manufacturing, the shop, logistics and design


The book does not flow as seamlessly as I would have liked it to and there could have been more insights into how exactly they market the brand. It’s a good book and I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Special thanks to @mradjaye for giving me this book.

Originally published at on June 21, 2015.

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