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Gap’s Big Bet On Better Style

While Gap Inc., might not want to call it a comeback (they’ve been here for years, as LL Cool J once sang), they are staking their future fortunes on a renewed interest in an old premise: selling attractive clothing.

In a Tuesday presentation with investors, Gap’s executive team mapped out how they can leverage the success their fast fashion line Old Navy is enjoying into better traction for their struggling Gap and Banana Republic brands. They like digital, they are fond of tech — but the heart of the strategy is built on the clothes, and making them more desirably to their intended buyers.

"Frankly, all the rest of it — global growth, digital, everything else that we’re doing — doesn’t matter if we aren’t better and more consistent at the product we put in our stores,” said Art Peck, the retailer’s chief executive.

This means Gap as a brand will be borrowing some fast fashion tactical moves, such as “fabric platforming.” This strategy for saving costs and staying current sees retailers buying up huge quantities of a particular fabric and then creating designs for that fabric in response to of-the-moment trends.

Gap is saying goodbye to 175 stores this week, cutting their retail fleet by about 25 percent. Executives noted that those closures are coming out of failing malls that were acting more as an anchor for the brand than as a high traffic launching point for the desired consumer set of 25 to 35 year olds with slightly higher than average income levels.

It seems The Gap is ready to let go of the fashion forward tween, teen and early 20s shopper in favor of their more consistent, less fickle and higher spending older siblings.

Banana Republic — Gap’s upscale and dependable “work clothes” line — is struggling as it tries to pivot toward more casual, fashionable attire. To that end, the line has brought in a new designer, Marissa Webb, in an attempt to draw out a more diverse style perspective.

Except what Banana Republic is rolling out is more likely to be labeled as “confused” these days than “diverse.”

“We lack color, we lack prints, we rely much too heavily on black and white. Our silhouettes…are oversized and boxy,” Brand President Andi Owen said.

The brand’s mission this year will be to pull itself out of this style rut with a redesign across the board. The brand is also gong to pull back in how it does promotions, with less of an emphasis on always discounting.

“Value isn’t 40 [percent] off every day, and we have been way too 40 [percent] off every day in many places in this company,” Peck said.

 
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