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Changes Afoot at Gap


A friend of mine recently called to ask my opinion of the “new” Gap. She had just returned from shopping at The Grove, an upmarket mall in Los Angles, and couldn’t get over how “different” the Gap seemed. It wasn’t just the merchandise as much as the overall environment that had struck her. Everything seemed so “fresh,” she said.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I decided to visit my local Gap, which is in a suburban New Jersey town. But there was nothing new there to report. The same uninspiring, one-note décor. The rear of the store was taken up with fixtures packed with marked-down goods. The store seemed the way it has for a long time: tired. Maybe my friend was a less than reliable reporter.

As it turns out, she was right on the mark. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Gap is using its store at The Grove as a testing ground for reviving the once-great brand. Among the changes is a more cheery store environment, with more natural light. The new upbeat décor is in keeping with the upbeat, bright look of its spring and summer products. Other things being tested include dressing rooms in the center of the store, and an on-site stylist.

As a longtime Gap fan, I’m heartened to hear of these and other changes. For too long, the Gap story has largely been one of cutting costs and executive shake-ups. There is little doubt the stores suffered. I seem to remember rumors of store updates—or at least rumors of them—but such efforts never seemed to gain much traction.

According to the Times article, Art Peck, the president of Gap North America, wants to update Gap’s 1,000 North American stores. That’s a tall order, but it’s exactly what’s needed. Just like J.C. Penney, Gap has a big ship to turn around. But turning the entire ship around—and not just a few high-profile locations—is absolutely critical to any successful turnaround effort. So I’m hopeful when I hear about all the attention the retailer has focused on its store in The Grove. But I’ll be even more hopeful—and sure that the chain is putting its money where its mouth is—when I see some of those changes firsthand, at my local Gap. It’s been tired for too long.

Click here to read the Times article on the Gap.

More As I See It entries.

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