Fashion giant Inditex to resume operations in Venezuela

CARACAS/MADRID (Reuters) -Spanish fashion company Inditex plans to resume activities in Venezuela, reopening under a franchise agreement a Zara store in Caracas in the first half of 2024 after a three-year hiatus, the company said on Friday.

In 2021, Inditex, which also owns Bershka, Pull & Bear and other brands, closed all of the group’s shops in the South American country following a revised franchise agreement with local partner Phoenix World Trade.

Zara’s operations will be taken over again by its franchisee in Venezuela, now under the name Grupo Futura, which has decided to resume Zara’s commercial activity, reopening a Zara shop in the Sambil shopping centre in Caracas, Inditex said, confirming an earlier story by Reuters.

“The opening is expected to take place before the end of the first half of 2024,” one of the sources added.

Grupo Futura did not respond to a request for comment.

Grupo Futura helped Inditex navigate complex local regulations under former President Hugo Chavez and will now assist the fashion retailer in reconnecting with a market that many global companies see as a burgeoning opportunity amid the potential relaxation of some U.S. economic sanctions.

Inditex’s local partner company, owned by businessman Camilo Ibrahim, had been responsible for the operation of Inditex stores in the country’s main cities since 2007, while also running stores for other brands such as U.S.-based Timberland.

Inditex’s local partner helped it navigate currency controls under the government of Chavez, who died in 2013. Those regulations were maintained for years by his successor, Nicolás Maduro.

In 2019, under U.S. sanctions, the Maduro government began to reverse course and has since eased restrictions on the private sector, allowing more foreign currency transactions, which has given some oxygen to commerce and industry.

Zara’s stores in Argentina were franchised last year by a Panama-based operator, the Regency Group, after 25 years of direct management. This group operates stores in five other South American markets.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas in Caracas and Corina Pons in MadridEditing by Andrei Khalip, Inti Laudaro, Matthew Lewis and Louise Heavens)