A nimble approach to fashion
From the boot of a car to the malls of the world: How Cotton On built a global business
From a humble start selling jeans out of a car boot the Aussie retailer has become a global operation
There exist a few lesser known truths about Cotton On’s expansion across SA. For instance, the CEO of one of the largest mall operators in the country once tried to sneak out of his office to avoid a meeting with the (then) little-known Australian retailer. Today it would be hard to find a shopping centre in SA where Cotton On — through its seven brands — is not a tenant. When, in 2011, it opened its first store in SA at Clearwater Mall on the West Rand, which by some accounts could be considered the retail boonies, there wasn’t much in the way of a "fast-fashion" offering for local shoppers. This retail model, most synonymous with Inditex’s Zara and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), is, essentially, nimbleness in interpreting trends. Retailers, through integrated manufacturing and logistics systems, deliver small batches of product on a (sometimes) daily, weekly or bi-weekly basis. Inventory turns over quickly, the newness keeps shoppers coming back and there’s very little overstock. If some...