Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Gap

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Gap

Article excerpt

The retailer built its global growth on basics, but has struggled to rival fast fashion.

Nearly 40 years ago, Doris and Don Fisher opened the world's first Gap store in San Francisco with the idea that they wanted to 'make it easier to find a pair of jeans'. It is a principle Mr Fisher, now Gap's chairman emeritus, says the firm is still committed to. Given Gap's recent disappointing sales and decision to scale down its marketing and cut its design teams in Europe, it is reasonable to wonder whether its founders' views are holding the brand back.

Certainly, Gap's salad days of the late-80s and early-90s seem a lifetime away, when the preppy look was a fashion staple. As its core customer base has aged and looked elsewhere, the brand has failed to attract younger shoppers. While cost-cutting and its Banana Republic division have helped bolster group revenues, Gap has been left looking dated and rudderless. Observers were not surprised, then, when Zara overtook it as the world's biggest clothing retailer this year.

Gap has always moved at a slower pace than its fast-fashion rivals, which makes the axing of its European designers after just two and a half years, to refocus on its US team, all the more surprising - the first fruits of their labours hit UK stores only last August.

Can Gap regain its position on the high street? We asked Nick Gray, former head of marketing at Ben Sherman and now managing director of retail agency Live & Breathe, and Zaid Al-Zaidy, who works on Marks & Spencer's account as head of international planning at ad agency RKCR/Y&R, for their advice.

DIAGNOSIS - TWO INDUSTRY EXPERTS ON HOW GAP CAN REVIVE ITSELF

NICK GRAY managing director, Live & Breathe

Generally Apathetic Products - cruel, but accurate. Gap has become boring, staid and dated. Its ubiquity means it is now taken for granted and it reflects the lowest common denominator, following but never leading in the fashion stakes. The cachet it had when it entered the UK in 1987 is no longer novel or relevant.

It used to do the basics really well, but consumers now have plenty of places to stock up on better, more affordable basics - Uniqlo anyone? Even Marks & Spencer is doing better in this area.

Gap is trading from a large footprint, and consumer goodwill is diminishing fast. A long period of perceived under-investment means the brand has a massive turnaround job on its hands and had better move fast to prevent brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and River Island stealing its market. …

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