Zalando is a fashion retail company specializing in digitized marketing and online-based transactions. Although Zalando doesn’t sell products at physical stores, the retailer opened its first physical beauty shop in 2018.
The company, headquartered in Berlin, Germany, was founded in 2008 by David Schneider and Robert Gentz. The two met while studying at the same university. Inspired by the American fashion retailer Zappo, they thought of selling shoes online themselves—a rather unfashionable idea at the time.
Nonetheless, Schneider and Gentz continued working on the idea. In 2008, the two turned an apartment into a warehouse office in Berlin. With a gamble-like venture, Zalando initially offered free delivery service and a 100-day return guarantee.
Zalando’s rapid growth was also further accelerated by its unique approach. For one, the company launched country-specific websites to cater to the multiple cultures it serves. In addition, Zalando also created some legendary ad campaigns like this:
But as with all businesses, Zalando’s road wasn’t without bumps. After its early success in penetrating its initial international markets, the company faced criticism in the Netherlands after winning the year’s most irritating advertisement in 2010.
Zalando learned a valuable lesson from this, which is why the company now focuses on marketing strategies tailored to each customer. Management realized that different demographics respond differently to products and services. Today, Zalando is known for offering localized marketing, communication, and services.
In 2011, Zalando began allowing third-party brick-and-mortar fashion stores to sell their items on the platform through its Connected Retail solution. This move was among the turning points for Zalando, which expanded the range of products available on its platform.
The company also attempted to enter the luxury and classic fashion markets in 2013 by launching the Emeza and Kiomi brands. It was unsuccessful, however, leading management to refocus on building up Zalando.
With almost 15 years of experience in fashion retail, Zalando is now on the road to becoming the go-to place for luxury and streetwear inspiration. The company’s initial growth strategy—offering free delivery and returns—is still in place.
They also offer special deals and memberships to customers through Zalando Lounge, where merchandise is sold at lower prices. Zalando also partnered with third-party fashion shops in German cities to compensate for its lack of physical stores. These shops are where Zalando turns its unsold products over in hopes of selling them.
After only four years of ups and downs, Zalando reached $1 billion in revenues for the first time in 2012 and was hailed the fastest-growing fashion retailer in Europe. This milestone also made the company surpass its initial inspiration, Zappo.
Two years later, Zalando went public and raised $668 million. In 2021, the company reportedly earned more than €10.4 billion in revenues. Regarding website traffic, it is hard to estimate the figures since Zalando designates a different site for each country. But on average, Zalando websites are visited around 1 to 9 million times a month.
The methodology by which competitors of Zalando are ranked is based on various data points. Information considered includes the number of stores, revenue, number of employees, parent brands, and everything else deemed relevant.
This analysis only looks at fashion stores that sell to people in the middle market. High-end brands like LVHM, Chanel, and similar brands are not included. Also, we won’t look at brands like Adidas and Nike because they mainly cater to one type of customer (athletic wear, in this case).
Fashion marketplaces like Poshmark and Vinted, which primarily sell secondhand and luxury items, are also not included in this comparison. Lastly, we won’t consider competitors in the firm’s beauty and cosmetics segment.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 competitors of Zalando.
1. Hennes & Mauritz (H&M)
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden Founder(s): Erling Persson Year Founded: 1947
Hennes & Mauritz, a Swedish clothing retailer, has long been focused on sustainability and eco-friendly products. For example, H&M promotes Conscious points—small rewards for customers who bring reusable shopping bags or opt for “climate-smart” delivery.
The idea for H&M came to its founder, Erling Persson, on a trip to New York. Back then, he called his company Hennes (Swedish for “hers”). It wasn’t until more than ten years later that the company started selling menswear after buying a hunting apparel brand called Mauritz.
The next three decades became a phase of international growth for H&M. After establishing a chain of stores in Europe, the company grew big in the US, Australia, and other continents.
Earlier in 2022, H&M partnered with Ikea to open Atelier100, an eco-friendly space where local fashion creatives can sell their designs. H&M’s popularity in traditional shopping gives it an edge over Zalando. Collaboration also plays a vital role in the company’s continued growth.
The company has previously teamed up with big fashion houses such as Versace, Balmain, and Karl Lagerfeld. Partnerships also help cut costs, sustain the company’s initiatives, and promote H&M products to new markets.
In 2021, H&M said it generated $23.36 billion in sales, of which 32% came from online purchases. H&M also had over 110,000 employees and roughly 5,000 physical stores during the same year. Its website is visited 76 million monthly.
It’s interesting to note that H&M is particularly popular in Germany, even though the country remains the home of competitor Zalando. One reason is that many Germans not only favor its prices but also the casual and practical styles it offers.
Although H&M is committed to environmental initiatives, it remains a fast fashion brand. The company has long been involved in many ethical issues due to its disposable clothing, which takes up a lot of landfill space.
2. About You
Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany Founder(s): Tarek Muller, Hannes Wiese, and Sebastian Betz Year Founded: 2014
About You is an e-commerce business specializing in clothing and fashion items. The company’s name reflects its aim to offer a personalized service to its customers.
To gather customers’ preferences, About You has its own system of collecting user data based on search history, previous purchases, and many other sources. In addition, the company dedicates a lot of time to building relationships with customers through social media and influencer marketing.
About You launches fresh fashion styles every week. Some brands it features include Calvin Klein, American Vintage, NA-KD, MARCO TOZZI, Mavi, TAMARIS, Reebok, and many other prominent middle-class brands. It also sells its own brands such as the namesake About You and Edited.
Apart from selling clothing online, About You also offers fulfillment, dropshipping, marketing, and other types of services to fashion brands.
The key difference between the two is that Zalando provides a straightforward shopping experience for customers who already know what they want. About You, on the other hand, appeals to those seeking inspiration and wanting to browse new trends and styles.
The company was founded as a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant Otto Group (which also owns another competitor Bonprix) and launched under the Collins Project umbrella. The goal was to create a “state-of-the-art” shopping experience inspired by online retailers.
Aware of the many competitors already in the market when About You was launched, the management team knew they would need to set their platform apart. One way they did this was by harnessing the power of local endorsers or “idols” to promote About You.
In 2021, About You earned more than EUR1.7 billion in revenues. Currently, the platform sells over 2,000 brands and employs around 1,000 people while being active in 25 countries. Per estimates, its website is visited 9.3 million times every month.
Headquarters: London, England Founder(s): Nick Robertson, Andrew Regan, Quintin Griffiths, and Deborah Thorpe Year Founded: 2000
Known initially as AsSeenOnScreen, ASOS is an online fast-fashion retailer famous for selling relatable slogan tees (and other apparel) that appeal to consumers. Many of these slogans are three- to five-word phrases about customer experiences.
While ASOS shoppers are younger than Zalando, both companies focus on data-driven personalization and inventory optimization. ASOS is also primarily a retailer, while Zalando is a retailer-slash-marketplace offering brand fulfillment, warehousing, and advertising services.
Before its current successful days, ASOS was actually aimed at becoming a go-to shop for movie and TV show fashion finds. The earlier celebrity-worn copies ASOS produced included a Pulp Fiction wallet and a mortar-and-pestle in a TV show.
The company’s entrance to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) has always been considered one of its most important decisions. Despite the big risk that became the talk of the town in 2001, the highly volatile market helped ASOS grow its valuation to over 2 billion euros while attracting interest from a new set of investors.
ASOS also became the UK’s first fashion retailer to use a “virtual fitting room” in 2006. And after over 20 years on AIM, it was finally listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The LSE-listed business reported £3.9 billion in revenues in 2021 and today offers more than 850 brands and employs 3,000 people. As of 2022, ASOS’s online properties are visited around 46 million times monthly.
While ASOS has enjoyed financial success, it has been a victim of fire incidents throughout its history. The first was in 2005 during the Buncefield explosion; another fire broke out in ASOS’ major UK warehouse in 2014. Three years after that, another similar incident occurred at ASOS’s Eurohub.
4. Zara (Inditex)
Headquarters: Arteixo, Spain Founder(s): Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera Year Founded: 1975
Zara is a subsidiary of the Spanish clothing giant Inditex, operating in the fast fashion industry. The company is known for having one of the quickest production and selling cycles and a higher number of products available on hand than most of its competitors.
In the late 1960s, the founder Ortega set up a dressmaking factory in Galicia. Some years later, he realized that there was plenty of untapped growth in the retail industry. And together with his wife, he founded a fashion business called Zorba. The name was later changed to Zara.
As Zara consistently grew, the couple decided to form a parent company—Inditex. Although Inditex has founded several other successful brands like Pull&Bear and Bershka, Zara remains the company’s most internationally recognized name to this day.
The company began to expand internationally in the 1990s, across Europe and the United States. They also conquered Asia in the following decade. This huge success is believed to result from Zara’s unique model.
Unlike Zalando and other competitors, Zara owns most of its supply chain, allowing for an overall fast production and distribution process.
In 2021, Inditex reported a revenue of over $30 billion, less than 30% of which was from online sales. It has over 6,500 stores and is present in over 200 markets worldwide. As of 2021, the company employed approximately 162,000 people. The company’s website attracts 64 million visits each month.
Although Zara is generally well-received by the public, its reputation has taken a hit recently over controversies. The company was accused of being anti-semitic after selling a swastika-designed handbag and t-shirts printed with the design the Jews wore in concentration camps.
Headquarters: Nanjing, China Founder(s): Yangtian Xu, Xiaoqing Ren, Yang Pei Year Founded: 2008
Recently, the “ultra-fast” fashion industry has gained more and more attention. And if there’s one company that embodies this, it’s probably SHEIN.
Originally called SheInside, SHEIN is a fashion retailing business that first dominated Asia but is now becoming the biggest threat to Western competitors.
Although SHEIN has been around since the early 2010s, it didn’t gain most of its current success until 2013. Founder Xiaoqing Ren (who goes by Chris Xu) made significant changes to SHEIN’s business model in 2013, shifting from online wedding dresses to women’s trendy wear.
Since then, SHEIN has grown rapidly, raising over $1.2 billion in total funding. It’s currently valued at $100 billion—10 times that of rival Zalando. In 2021, SHEIN earned more than $15 billion in revenues. Its website is visited 47 million times a month, and its app has over 177 million downloads.
But indeed, such a huge success has brought many controversies to the company. For example, many local designers claim that SHEIN steals their designs and sells them on its platform without consent or sharing of profit.
Its “ultra-fast” production cycle—releasing new products every three days—also comes with a price. SHEIN has been raising concerns from environmentalists due to the use of microplastics and other eco-hazard materials. Allegedly, SHEIN also utilizes poor working conditions and child labor.
6. Peek & Cloppenburg
Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany Founder(s): Jonathan Thedore Peek and Heinrich Anton Adolph Cloppenberg Year Founded: 1900
Initially, Peek & Cloppenburg solely operated as a chain of department stores in Germany. For a long time, the company spent its glorious time as one of the leading fashion stores in the country. With the entrance of the digital age, Peek & Cloppenburg also established a fairly strong online store.
Before starting Peek & Cloppenburg, founders Jonathan and Heinrich were already running a fashion store in Rotterdam (1869). They moved the business to the Netherlands until Heinrich’s son returned to Germany and established the first official Peek & Cloppenburg on the famous shopping street of Schwadowstrassea.
As with many apparel stores back then, Peek & Cloppenburg only offered personally tailored suits for men. Before the Second World War, the company started catering to women. However, the venture gradually declined post-World War until the ’60s when its production arm was shut down.
Fortunately, after investing in modernization and advertising, Peek & Cloppenburg went through a gradual, fresh regrowth. With its continuous expansion, the management decided to name every second store in every city “Anson’s” to avoid a double-Peek & Cloppenburg in a given area.
The business works by outsourcing clothing items from independent manufacturers in various countries. Most of its textiles come from China, Turkey, and Bangladesh, from which products are imported to Germany, Austria, Poland, and Romania.
If P&C has one competitive advantage over Zalando, it’s probably because the former has been around for so long; thus, it is more trusted. Nonetheless, based on the website traffic, Zalando has mastered domination in the online world.
Currently, the company owns 150 on-site stores scattered across 15 countries. In 2021, Peek & Cloppenburg had $150 million in revenue and employed almost 15,000 people. Their website gets about 6 million visits each month.
Headquarters: Seattle, Washington Founder(s): Jeff Bezos Year Founded: 1994
Amazon is famous for its customer-focused approach to marketing and sales. Hailed the number 1 fashion retailer in the US in 2020, the company does not only hold a large portion of the American market but Europe as well.
As of April 2022, over 185,000 independent European small-medium enterprises sell on Amazon. The United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and other European countries are the top countries with the most sellers on the platform.
Likewise, European customers are generally hooked up to the e-commerce giant. On average, Amazon takes 30% of the UK’s and Germany’s market share in the e-commerce fashion industry.
Although Europe has a slower-developing industry in e-commerce compared to other regions, the pandemic brought an accelerated interest in online shopping. And, as might be expected, Amazon has been quick to capitalize on this market opportunity; after all, 80% of Germans shop for fashion on Amazon.
Amazon Fashion is a segment of the company that was first launched as an on-site store in May 2022 in Los Angeles. Soon after, the segment expanded and was well-accepted in Europe. However, in October of the same year, the company faced criticism for the alleged practice of copying growing local brands’ products.
Although Amazon is doing well in the fashion industry, its weakness may be inspiring fashion purchases, which brands like Zalando are particularly good at. Amazon also lacks luxury brands as they generally try to avoid being associated with the platform.
One noticeable difference is that Zalando engages shoppers on its platform, while Amazon is more straightforward and transactional. Both retailers compete in online fashion retail, but Amazon offers more basic and discounted fashion products.
Headquarters: Enderby, England, UK Founder(s): Joseph Hepworth Year Founded: 1864
Formerly known as J. Hepworth & Son, this fashion retail brand was later changed to NEXT plc in 1982. NEXT focuses on offering apparel to people between the ages of 20 and 40, a market range that is indeed the company’s edge over its competitors.
Founder Joseph Hepworth was raised by a cloth dresser—thus, his deep understanding of fabrics and textiles. He then started a clothing store for the youth.
Back then, Hepsworth’s business focused on wholesale. His son, Norris, was the one who started to sell clothes directly to consumers. For decades, the Hepsworths only offered made-to-order suits for gentlemen.
It was only in the ‘80s when the management decided to take its shot at womenswear by acquiring Kendall & Sons. The business was then renamed NEXT plc.
Since then, NEXT has expanded to a chain of other industries, such as marketing consultation, warehousing, distribution networks, and websites. Also, NEXT was the first fashion store to promote color-coordinated clothing instead of making the usual, section-based approach in most department stores.
As one of the oldest and longest-standing figures in fashion retail, NEXT is a household name in the UK. And how did NEXT sustain a good reputation and stand through the years? It is believed that NEXT has mastered the art of “under-promising and over-delivering,” always ensuring high-quality and customer-focused services.
With that, it is not only the consumers’ trust that NEXT sustains but that of the investors. In 2021, the company generated £3.28 billion in revenues, over 90% from online sales. Currently, NEXT manages 480 on-site locations in Europe and Asia. It is estimated that NEXT’s website is visited 23 million times a month.
Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany Founder(s): Kai Heck, Markus Fuchshofen, and Dr. Richard Gottwald Year Founded: 1986
Bonprix is a global clothing store that focuses on “fast fashion” and puts out a new set of styles every month. To do this, the company takes inspiration from catwalk trends. Bonprix markets its products online, on-site, and even through catalogs.
The company is a subsidiary of Otto Group, which also owns About You. Despite that, the two companies compete with each other. Occasionally, there are Bonprix-branded products found on About You and vice versa.
Unlike many of its competitors, Bonprix started as a catalog-based shop. In this system, products are displayed in short, magazine-like pamphlets, which were popular in the 1980s. Back then, the company only had ten employees and started with a 32-page catalog.
But after only five years of operation, Bonprix expanded to Poland and France in 1991 and then to Italy a year later. Five years later, the company launched its first online store through bonprix.de. The company now has over 35 million customers in 30 countries.
One competitive advantage Bonprix has over Zalando is the former’s presence of physical stores. With that, Bonprix has the opportunity to meet the needs of traditional shoppers. Bonprix also launched Fashion Connect, an experimental pop-up store that combines digitized and traditional shopping experiences.
In 2021, Bonprix’s reported revenue was $1.94 billion. Every month, its online shop gets about 251,100 visits. In addition, the company sells at more than 100 on-site locations and employs 3,700 people.
Headquarters: Malmo, Sweden Founder(s): Hermann Haraldsson Year Founded: 2007
Boozt is a NASDAQ Nordic-listed company focusing on lifestyle and fashion retailing. The company operates two channels, Boozt.com and Booztlet.com. The first channel offers fashion products for men, women, and kids; the second provides products from previous seasons at lower prices.
While Zalando may seem far more popular, Boozt dominates 80% of the Nordic countries, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. In addition, the company owns one of the most advanced warehouses in the region.
Boozt originally sold only one brand. The company used third-party services for almost every aspect of its business. Eventually, Boozt realized the importance of investing in technology and innovation to reduce costs.
Boozt is known in the e-commerce industry for facilitating the largest AutoStore-based warehouse. With this system, most of the company’s day-to-day operations are automated with robots and other technology.
Haraldsson also restructured the company in 2010 by selling multiple third-party brands. But unlike Zalando, Boozt focused on offering curated premium brands rather than fast fashion.
Fortunately, the fresh idea seemed to work for the Nordics. Aside from the sophisticatedly picked items, the fast fulfillment and scalable customer base pushed Boozt into rapid growth in the region.
In 2021, the company reported a revenue of $536 million. With over 100 brands on the platform, Boozt.com and Booztlet.com have over 2.6 million monthly visits combined. The company also employs over 1,200 people.