A decade makes a difference. Gap, once a powerhouse among retailers, finds itself in search of an identity. Mismanagement under Paul Pressler, lackluster offerings, and advertising without a focus has contributed to the loss in market share. Banana Republic and Old Navy have weathered the economic storm, but Gap still finds itself without a loyal customer base. The buzz and excitement of Patrick Robinson’s hiring and executive leadership provided by Gap veteran Marka Hansen have still not set the ship right.
What is Gap’s problem? The Gap logo maybe relevant, but not their fashion sense. I can’t tell you how many times the word “casual” and “classic” have been used to describe the different collections. Comedian Bill Maher boldly stated that Gap is a store that sells “expensive cheap clothing.” He’s on to something. How can something never in style go out of style he later said. Today’s society has become very fashion conscious, a far cry from the 90’s when Gap was at the top of its game. People cling to brands. Cool brands. Forever 21. Zara. H&M. Abercrombie. Aeropostale. Target. The list goes on. Gap simply does not have cutting edge designs to outplay the competition. Hasn’t the world had enough with khakis and plaid shirts? Seriously. Jump off the predictable bus. But Gap does not need to join the fast-fashion club. Trying to find a balance between contemporary and sophisticated is a step in the right direction. Gap’s store environments don’t help either. Some of their new stores cry out BLAND. Does that mean taking market-share from Banana Republic. No. Gap can be a bit daring with its designs while providing it’s customer base with the basics. One of the stores I most admired was Mexx. It’s presence was short-lived in the United States, but their clothes were comfortable and attractive. A simple white t-shirt had a unique logo embossed on the shoulder/arm. Another was a navy blue full-sleeve mixed with grey on the arms. Although the 1969 jeans collection is a step in the right direction, more work is necessary to get people through the doors.
Otherwise, I’m inclined to believe that Gap’s investors will eventually force leadership to sell the mothership while retaining the semi-profitable Old Navy and Banana Republic. CEO Glenn Murphy has patience and wants the all three brands to grow, but this brand ain’t going nowhere.