The ultimate ’90s brand slides toward the murky middle.
…the numbers for Gap stores are ugly: down 12 percent in 2001, down 7 percent in 2002, and off 5 percent in 2005…And the trend is continuing. In February, same-store sales for the Gap North America unit fell 7 percent. “In February, traffic worsened versus fourth-quarter trends, which caused lower unit sales velocity. This led to significantly lower merchandise margins,” as executive Sabrina Simmons put it. (Translation: People avoided our stores the way Republican politicians are avoiding Jack Abramoff, so we had to mark stuff down or eat the inventory.)
These items point up the Gap’s two underlying problems. For starters, the brand is still aligned in the public imagination with the back-to-basic ethos of the ’90s. Which is to say, T-shirts and jeans. As such, it can’t begin to compete with the knock-off meccas (H&M, Zara, Club Monaco, etc.) that have become popular in the froufrou-mad ’00s. These days, it seems, we want our mall stores to be ripping off high-fashion houses, not mass-producing sweat pants…
It would appear that fit is still a problem or rather, communicating fitting differences is a problem. A word to the wise:
…Mimicking luxury retailers like Barneys New York, Gap stores now feature “jeans bars” with a dedicated salesperson. And the company is cutting jeans for all kinds of bodies-a noble concept. But the Gap has made the process so complicated that it takes an advanced degree to figure out which pants to try on. I fingered one seemingly promising pair on the shelf only to find them marked “original” “boy cut” “left weave” “ankle.” Huh? Hoping to master the categorization system, I consulted gap.com but only grew more confused. What is the difference, for example, between “straight boy cut” and “original long & lean”?