The franchise operator of Zara and two other popular apparel chains will close all of its stores in Venezuela in the next few weeks.
Zara, along with Pull&Bear and Bershka are owned by Spain’s Inditex SA and have been operating as franchises in Venezuela since 2007. The franchise is managed by Panamanian-based company Phoenix World Trade, run by Camilo Ibrahim.
The three retail brands have already gradually shut down outlets in Caracas malls, with some displaying new logos and names followed by the words “coming soon.”
“Phonex WT is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear in Venezuela to make it coherent with the new digital integration and transformation model announced by Inditex,” Operations Director Andres Brant said in an email statement. “Meanwhile, the five stores that remain open under the previous model will cease to operate in the next few weeks.”
Inditex franchises in Aruba and the Dominican Republic, which is also run by Phoenix, will continue to stay open, Brandt added.
Inditex declined to comment.
The move came as the Venezuelan government increases efforts to draw foreign investment back into the country by effectively ending years of socialist policies. Sieged by U.S. sanctions, the Nicolas Maduro administration has allowed the country to slide into a de facto dollarization since 2019, offering private companies some breathing room to operate.
Inditex entered the Venezuelan market in 1998, first managing the retail stores directly and then under a franchise model. The franchise navigated years of exchange and price controls that often led them to temporarily close stores due to a lack of merchandise.
The brands were highly popular among Venezuelans, who used to line up outside the stores to shop whenever the government forced to draw prices down or allowed the company to import merchandise at the subsidized, official exchange rate.
By Rodrigo Orihuela