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Trendy Zara chain zips into Tampa's International Plaza

Zara, a trendy Spanish apparel chain that pioneered "instant affordable fashion," is setting up shop at International Plaza in Tampa.

The chain, which offers men's, women's and children's apparel, turned heads in the slow-moving fashion world by churning out new merchandise fast enough to restock a whole store every two weeks year-round.

That's how this direct rival of Forever 21, Gap and the Swedish disposable fashion chain H&M lures regulars to visit its mid-priced stores 17 times a year to see what's new.

Most fashion apparel makers need six to nine months to move apparel from the drawing board to the stores. Zara's more than 200 designers in the Galician corner of Spain can do it in two weeks. The designers are digitally linked directly to what's selling in each store. So they can made small adaptations to match consumer preferences even after a design has debuted at retail.

Zara's designers churn out 20,000 new products a year, about 10 times as many as typical mall specialty apparel chains. Designed for women younger than 40, women's sizes go up to 12, which is labeled extra large.

Half the goods are made in Spain, the rest in Asia or Eastern Europe.

The 1975 creation of Spanish textiles tycoon Amancio Ortega, Zara went international in 1988 and today has 3,691 stores in 68 countries. The company is opening 560 more this year, including launches in Egypt, Ukraine, South Korea and Montenegro.

About Zara

. What is it? A cheap chic Spanish clothing chain that claims it can display the latest fashions in as little as two weeks.

. When will it open here? This summer at International Plaza in Tampa. It will be Zara's first store on Florida's west coast. It opened in Orlando and South Florida in 2001.

Trendy Zara chain zips into Tampa's International Plaza 05/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 9:26am]

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