Gap, a company wandering in the wilderness, has now reached the store closure phase.
The brand has been soul-searching for a couple of years now, trying to find its angle in an era when fast fashion rules the retail landscape and their erstwhile customer is skipping denim (and, God forbid, khakis) for yoga pants. And now the New York Times reports that over the next couple of years the mothership will be closing 175 of 675 North American Gap stores—roughly a quarter. (Outlet stores will be left untouched, because those boring-ass shirts look more appealing at half the price.)
“We feel confident that we’re going to be positioned to restore the brand and get it back on track as quickly as possible,” CEO Art Peck explained the closures.
The Times offers a short history of how everything came to this:
After dominating khaki and denim culture through the 1990s, Gap has stumbled in recent years, hurt by management blunders, a revolving door of executives and, by its own executives’ admission, uninspiring fashion. As with many midrange apparel retailers, both Gap and its sister brand, Banana Republic, have lost core shoppers, who were lured away by cheap chic styles offered by the likes of H&M.
In late 2012, Gap hired Rebekka Bay, a Danish fashion designer who gained attention for her COS minimalist clothing line for H&M. But her penchant for grays and blacks clashed with Gap’s happy, all-American aesthetic, and her styles were criticized as drab. In January, Gap fired Ms. Bay and eliminated the position of creative director altogether, tapping Wendi Goldman, the former head of design at the now-defunct retailer C. Wonder, as Gap’s new head of product design and development.
Closing stores that aren’t doing so hot will likely help. But it’s not a panacea: “Consumers have a lot of options on where to spend their apparel dollar. For Gap brand to win it needs to offer compelling product at a good value,” analyst Mark Altschwager told the Times.
They also announced 250 people will be laid off at the corporate level, but didn’t put a number on how many retail employees will lose their jobs.
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Image via AP.