Apr 18, 2018 | By Sandra Halliday
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How do you fix Gap? Make its clothing more desirable and fashionable. That was the simple, overriding message from the struggling apparel giant hours after it announced US store closures and job cuts (WGSN News June 16). The brand has also given itself a spring 2016 “no excuses” deadline, too.
“Frankly, all the rest of it – global growth, digital, everything else that we’re doing – doesn’t matter if we aren’t better and more consistent at the product we put in our stores,” chief executive Art Peck told investors and analysts Tuesday.
The wider Gap Inc outlined its strategy for rescuing the signature brand and fellow struggler Banana Republic brand while continuing the strong momentum in its star Old Navy chain.
So what changes can we expect? Well, don’t look for anything immediately radical. Peck said that it may take a while for the changes to visible in the stores, since much of the autumn/winter season merchandise were designed under a creative team that has since been replaced.
“Next spring will be the brand’s “no-excuses moment,” he said, when shoppers and investors should start clearly seeing improvement in the clothes.
There will, however, be a target demographic of men and women between age 25-35 who are slightly above-average spenders, Gap said.
Gap brand global president Jeff Kirwan said the shift in emphasis comes after undertaking “deep-dive research” in major markets from Tokyo to New York.
He also promised better and faster trend forecasting. He said in addition to having the right products, fit and quality and how products are displayed will also be a growing focus.
Gap brand will be taking motivation from the successful Old Navy playbook, including expanding its trend forecasting process and rethinking its clothing production process.
The brand will more frequently use a ‘fabric platforming’ strategy – buying bulk quantities of a particular fabric and then creating designs for that fabric in response to of-the-moment trends.
There will also likely be a pull back on the constant promotions that they’ve relied on in recent years to drum up sales.
“Value isn’t 40 [%] off every day, and we have been way too 40 [%] off every day in many places in this company,” Peck admitted.
Over at Banana Republic, a candid global brand president Andi Owen also admitted it had problems making changes. Its key move to incorporate more casualwear into the mix via new designer Marissa Webb “has not executed very well so far”, although she believes it’s the “right call” to offer more versatile clothing.
The customer is “having a really hard time outfitting,” Owen said, meaning shoppers haven’t found it easy to put together head-to-toe looks from Banana’s offerings.
Owen also admitted style and quality have also continued to miss the mark.
“We lack colour, we lack prints, we rely much too heavily on black and white. Our silhouettes… are oversized and boxy,” Owen said.
The brand’s mission this year is to focus on improving its sweaters, pants, outerwear and suiting offer. Improvements in quality will focus on the stretch of its pants’ fabric and durability of its sweater offer after multiple wears.
However, she said the brand won’t blindly chase after trends that may not resonate with Banana Republic customers. For instance, she said the chain has bought a lot of cropped tops only to learn “it’s not a match” with customers.
Banana Republic will also give local stores more say on how they display assortment and feature curated collections to appeal to local preferences. She said instead of relying on 40%-off promotions, marketing will focus more on telling stories about product design.
* Peck also said Tuesday that he expects its upscale Intermix brand will continue to be smaller than the other chains in Gap’s fleet. But, he added that the high-end store, which sells designers such as Valentino and Helmut Lang, could be valuable because it “connects [Gap] to the heart of the design industry.”
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