Mock turtlenecks and classic denim, Gap was a sartorial staple and the cornerstone of American apparel well, before American Apparel.
Now the 45-year-old retail chain, one of the first low-cost retail brands to use celebrities in advertising, plans to close over 170 stores in North America in an effort to make the brand cool again.
But what happened to the Gap?
A former store associate Bree Davies tells Racked, even in the midst of slow sales worldwide, the chain would close down many of its top-selling stores for months at a time just for a remodel.
“The pre-recession remodel that had turned a normal retail space into a series of themed rooms now created the perfect tangle of hidden corners for shoplifters.”
Davies also said the store failed to cash in on big trends.
“We couldn’t keep colored denim or skinny jeans on the shelves, yet we’d have to wait weeks for replenishment.”
“By the time the jeans had arrived, our customers were most likely headed to Forever 21 or H&M for their denim basics (as many of us Gap employees were also doing),” Davis reveals.
It’s pretty safe to say Gap lost its cool factor to the onslaught of European retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop who currently dominate the new American high street.
As Davies shares, Gap, a retailer all about the basics—crisp white oxfords, black denim, leather belts, and linen dresses—was slow to adopt what H&M and Forever 21 rule at, re-creating unattainable runway trends and celebrity fashion at super low prices for the masses.
One cruise through New York’s Topshop location in Soho, the first of the British brand’s American stores, you’ll see a range of colorful prints and sexy styles that could be easily spotted on superstars like Beyonce and Rita Ora, all under $200.
Gap’s dominance in the preppy ’80s worked when mock turtlenecks and simple frocks were acceptable. Or the creased cotton-blend trousers when we all wanted to feel sophisticated senior year of high school. Now retailers make it easy to wear a version of Katy Perry’s hot pants seen on the Billboard Awards stage or the furry clutch Rihanna carried on a cover photo of Us Weekly.
Seemingly sticking major celebs like Zoe Saldana and Nas in the brand’s holiday ads, a strategy the brand relied on for over 20 years, is no longer working.
The media’s increasing focus on celebrity fashion in the past 10-15 years feeds consumer’s desires to reach for stylish aspiration and it doesn’t help that Gap sticks to basics, it’s core brand identity, when basics are basically over.
Here’s hoping its not too late for Gap to save itself from itself and work in more graphic crop tops and ripped denim into its inventory.
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