Rapid-Fire Fulfillment

by Kasra Ferdows, Michael A. Lewis, and Jose A.D. Machuca

WHEN A GERMAN WHOLESALER suddenly canceled a big lingerie order in 1975, Amancio Ortega thought his fledgling clothing company might go bankrupt. All his capital was tied up in the order. There were no other buyers. In desperation, he opened a shop near his factory in La Coruña, in the far northwest corner of Spain, and sold the goods himself. He called the shop Zara.

Today, over 650 Zara stores in some 50 countries attract well-heeled customers in luxury shopping districts around the world, and Senor Ortega is arguably the richest man in Spain. The clothing company he founded, called Inditex, has been growing ever since he opened that first Zara shop. From 1991 ...

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