Hungarians who have visited Western Europe often come home with the conviction that huge fashion companies like Mango, Zara and H&M do have good products on offer there, but only boring and less good quality products come to the Hungarian stores. Origo.hu investigated how true this conviction is, on what it depends which items will be in the shop windows, and how our decisions influence our later clothing opportunities.
“In 2014, the age of internet and social media a global brand can not sell different products in Eastern Europe than in other parts of the world”, says Szűcs Péter, editor in chief of inStlye magazine.
At the same time, widely traveled people often insist coming home that they’ve seen different clothes in the abroad stores of Mango, H&M, Zara, Bershka, Promod and C&A (or in brief, fast fashion shops) than in the domestic stores.
In given periods the same campaign photos appear on the skyscrapers of New York and the buildings of Budapest, but it’s a fact that the demands of people differ from country to country and it has a great effect on the supply. “As people watch different kinds of films, there are also different cultural traditions in the field of clothing”, says Szűcs Péter.
“People used to say that fashion is global, but it is seen from the dynamics of the fashion market that it’s not. Although all clothes of the world are identically produced in Bangladesh and Thailand and the fashion world treats the European market as a unity, different continents have different target-specific collections”, explains Zanin Éva social historian. People have distinct styles even in the neighboring countries, for instance women in Belgrade pick different dresses than women in Budapest for the reason that Serbian women have more Italianate and sophisticated style, while simpler, bit sporty and at the same time bit designer clothes are popular in our country, she adds.
Our decisions influence the future
Does the decision of the majority have an effect on which clothes will be popular and fashionable in the near future? At some extent it will, claims an employee of an international company which has twelve shops in Hungary at the moment, and which is one category better in prices and in quality than fast fashion chain stores. Their method is that the leaders of the twelve shops travel to the regional center where they choose those items that they want in the shops from the current collection. “There’s a standard line which is present in our every shops, since our catalog advertise them. Besides them we have freely selectable options”, he says. It actually means that a shop director may choose only three or four different types of a sweater which originally have five different types. “This way customers can buy the same items in our every store, there’s only a minimal difference between the stores.”
“I think there’s nothing wrong with it if the shops bring those products to the country which they can actually sell”, tells Szűcs Péter. “In every country stores order more from those items which definitely will be sold. There are cases when only five pieces of an interesting product come to Budapest, but fifty to a city which has 10 million population – and it’s completely logical.”
Shop window rules
By some fast fashion chain stores, the store managers’ latitude is much smaller. Origo.hu talked to two former employees of two very popular brands in Hungary, who asked not to write down their names and employers. One of them (let’s call her Tímea) was working with a large international company where every single shop in the world got the same picture about how the shop window had to look like. Tímea and her colleagues had to follow this method even if only 3 pieces of the item shown in the shop window were on offer in the store, and they were sold under two days. It resulted in situations when the customer wanted to buy the dress which the mannequins wore, but there was none of them in the shop. “We couldn’t modify anything in these cases. It occurred sometimes that we saw that the dress was available in the system, we sent an order but we didn’t get it. We still had to show the last one in the shop window, but there was no such item in our storeroom.”
In the Western European center of the company took place the inventory management, they sent the orders out to the world. “We didn’t really had a say to the management, so there were times when we had fourth as much pants than tops” she says. If the system showed that the item was available in the warehouse they could order from it, but they had to give the name of the customer which Tímea found a bit strange. However, they got loads of the basic products. They weren’t previous collection or worse quality products, but they didn’t fit to the actual trends. “Of course we sold them too, after a while. While I was working there a general opinion formed in me that for Hungarians everything is salable.”
At the same time this strict standardization and rigid regulation means that the companies rank every country equally. Flóra, who was working in one of the shops of one of the biggest fast fashion chain store in Budapest for years, admits it too. “If you enter a regular size shop in Budapest, Warsaw or Zurich in a particular day, all of them will look the same, the same thing will be there in the shop window, on the table, on the walls, because all of these are strictly recorded in the center of the company. There are no significant differences between the shops in Europe, but out of Europe it is possible”, says Flóra.
And this is how we get to the origin of the deceptive impression that in Western areas Zara, Mango and H&M offers better products than here. It’s important to compare only those shops which are completely identical in category. The size of the shop matters, as well as its position in the country, whether it is located in the main square of the capital city or in a mall of a smaller city, how many shop windows it has, do fashion sensitive people live in that city, and so on.
There is one more thing that results small differences in the stock holdings. “If for example a jacket can’t be sold then it stays in the shop for a longer time than it would in a more busy place” explains Flóra. And another one – but this one is the customers’ fault. “My experience is that many customers mix the similar brands up” she says. There were several cases when the customer insisted that she saw a particular product in a foreign shop of this company, and finally it turned out that she had talked about the concurrency.
It’s clear now that almost whole Europe have the same clothes on offer. But what is the situation with the quality of the clothes? Is it true that less good quality clothes are transported to Europe? Every questioned person says that this is only an urban legend. The warehouse of Flóra’s former workplace is in Poland, the current collections are being handed out from that place to Europe, and she says that there is no differentiation between the Eastern and Western parts of the continent.
Tímea surmised that the large companies don’t make differences in the areas because she says there were several cases that the price tags were confused, the dresses were intended to send to a Western European shop and it was accidental that they ended up in Budapest. “Clothes weren’t separated, and if there was problems with the quality of an item, it was centrally revoked from every shop of the continent.”
Origo.hu officially asked the brand managers of large fast fashion companies but none of them gave substantive answers to them.
translated by Zsófia Luca Szemes from origo.hu