While J Crew has been gaining momentum over the last decade as a contemporary retail force to be reckoned with, sales at the Gap have been steadily lagging. All is not lost for the struggling company, however, if we are to believe the latest report from the New York Times.
The paper calls their decline “one of the great hot-to-not stories of American retailing.” Indeed, we can well remember the days when Gap was a beacon of home-grown classics.
In elementary school Gap Kids was it. I distinctly recall one of the more popular girls in my grade flaunting her knowledge of their entire seasonal product line as a mark of the utmost superiority. “That,” she said with disdain of another girl’s floral t-shirt, “is from, like, last year.” A true style snob in the making.
And yet since those halcyon days, the brand has faltered significantly, unable to find their footing as consumers became increasingly style conscious and online competitors held more and more sway. “Management missteps, executive turnover and, not least, unappealing fashion,” are cited as key contributors to the retailer’s decline. It went so far as to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in 2002, unable to keep up with its own rapid expansion. The creative department apparently became known to insiders as “the sign shop” with the number of sale banners they were forced to churn out week after week.
Times, however, are reportedly changing around the Gap HQ.
Gap Kids’ recent collaboration with Diane Von Furstenberg had even adult fashionistas coveting the adorable wares, while the men’s division announced in February that they would be hooking up with GQ‘s Best New Menswear Designers in America for a fall capsule collection. The Times visited their revamped store at Los Angeles’ Grove mall and were impressed with the changes:
The paint looks fresh, the fixtures intact. Over here are pink and yellow jeans for women; over there, bright spring-fresh scarves. Upstairs is some cool-looking men’s denim. And, throughout, natural light chases away the usual drab florescence.
The company’s North America president, Art Peck, says he hopes to make similar aesthetic improvements to the 1000+ Gap doors he oversees, in addition to moving dressing rooms to the middle of stores, hiring in-house stylists, and “making sure our body forms all have the appropriate number of limbs attached to them.”
Sounds like as good a place to start as any.