Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Falling Out of the Gap

Like vultures circling a wounded animal, the private-equity groups have begun to feel out the Gap. It makes perfect sense. Once the mainstay of the mall, the Gap has been reduced to a shadow of its former retail glory. Here the stock price tells the rise and fall of the chain. We all have an item similar to the flowered Gap tank top I loved in back in High School, which has long since been taken to Goodwill.

But even if there is a buyout, is there any hope the Gap can turn itself around? Here is my advice: stop shooting yourself in the foot! Creating other very similar chains like Old Navy (for cheap-clothing lovers), Banana Republic (for the more upscale), Forth & Towne (for Moms), and now Piperlime (for the shoe-obsessed) only spreads out your existing shopping base. Sometimes less is more. Stop cannibalizing the Gap's base for the success of the spin-offs.

If the company were to go the specialty route they would need to market the Gap to a niche audience as well. In most stores you can pinpoint the target market within the two seconds it takes to walk past. (Can you imagine your Grandmother thinking Urban Outfitters was the store for her?) The Gap has no driving conceptual force... other than bland. Hire some savvy marketing gurus and pick something! Anything! Maybe then the Gap will actually have some foot traffic again.

Until that turnaround, I will be shopping elsewhere.


cathy said...

hmm... good insight. i was actually just at the mall today, walked past the Gap, thought to myself, "meh," and got myself a mango smoothie instead. there's just nothing interesting, new, or exciting about them anymore (not that there was anything there to begin with....)

Sean Hackbarth said...

When I think of The Gap I think of khakis, their branded sweatshirts, and classic clothing. It's nothing fancy but I can walk in there and come out looking semi-fashionable. That's pretty good for me.

They should ditch the too-hip stuff and stick with American classic. They could also focus on customer service. Being a place with good clothes along with helpful people could generate some good word-of-mouth advertising.

Blonde Belle said...

Mmm, mango smoothie. Nice!

SH- I think that sticking with classics is a good idea. (Offering in-store tailoring would be a huge draw in my opinion.) The customer service would help too but they would have to get people in the door first. Such a Catch-22. :(