So, despite my repeated naysaying it seems not only is US ragtrader The Gap definitely coming to Australia (their first store will open in Melbourne next month), but they may well be leading a serious onslaught of entrants into the Aussie market.
According to this hype-heavy piece, the list of fashion retailers eying off Aussie wallets now includes Banana Republic (a Gap brand), Forever 21 (from US), Topshop (UK), and Uniqlo (Japan). While I am still taking this talk with a big grain of salt, there is certainly a long tradition of follow the leader amongst multinationals.
This behaviour may reflect several underlying motivations. Rivals may be concerned about early movers locking up resources and this limiting the scope for late moves.
In the retail domain there are grounds for concern that early movers may secure prime store locations, although this is much more of an issue in groceries and fast food than in fashion. Indeed in fashion, it is more likely any early advantage comes from building stronger relations with landlords and property brokers as anchor tenants.
Unlike fastfood, the franchising model used is only likely to be rolled out at a country-level (i.e. companies are awarded the right to run all stores in a state or country, rather than companies that then sub-franchise to individuals store-by-store), so there is a less of a race to secure franchisees and/or build reputations.
Interestingly two of the most successful internationalisers H&M and Inditex (i.e. Zara) remain very tightlipped about any Aussie plans. Both firms are much less inclined to franchise (mainly because they control their value chains much more tightly than the others on this list). They’ll need a lot more convincing that Australia represents sufficient bang for their buck/Euro/krona. I suspect they still see Australia as small fry.
But I’m reluctant to say never anymore. The performance of their international rivals down under may well play out as the demonstration effect (that this is a market worth seeking) that is a further key aspect of following.