GAP Clothing was once a BELOVED Brand, back in the middle of the 1990s. It was loved by consumers, envied by marketers and revered in the retailing world. In 1990, it celebrated it’s 1000th store opening and was the place to go for stylish trendy clothing at a reasonable price. At one point, GAP had an Inventory Rotation of “8 seasons” per year, just to keep up with the consumer’s desire to see new products as they walked through the GAP stores for the umpteenth time. Consumers couldn’t get enough of GAP.
Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005. And they’ve just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral. Who cares about inventory turns when people aren’t even walking into the stores?
This year, GAP filed a lawsuit against GAP Adventures saying they felt having the co-existance of the two brand names “caused confusion in the marketplace”. Considering that GAP Adventures is having a record year and is one of the most BELOVED brands in the adventure travel business, you would think GAP Clothing would think that confusion was a good thing. For GAP Clothing to be complaining about being mixed up with GAP Adventures feels like George Castanza complaining about being mixed up with George Clooney.
Brands ride THE LOVE CURVE, going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and then it becomes a Brand For Life–at each stage gaining a more emotional consumer connection with the brand. GAP Clothing rode this curve all through the 70s and 80s and by 1995, it had achieved the enviable “Brand For Life” status, which very few brands achieve.
But GAP got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion: the coolest people on earth…TEENAGERS of course. Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak out for their generation. It’s all about them. They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them. Imagine being 15 in the late 90s, you’re walking in your favourite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favourite clothing store. All of a sudden, you look up and your favourite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side. How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2 year old nephews or your pregnant Aunt are wearing the same clothes you’re wearing? GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory. Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become. In terms of the LOVE CURVE, GAP Clothing has slid from the BELOVED status to Like It all the way down to INDIFFERENT. No teenager today likes GAP. They don’t even care. Are you kidding me? Duh.
GAP is so confused as to what to do next. So what do brands do when they are confused? Well, they should look themselves right in the mirror, challenge themselves at the executive leadership team to address the issues directly with an honest assessment and a high willingness to change. That’s the ideal. Instead GAP did what a lot of brands do: they changed their logo. Oh god!!! The logo change only lasted one week–such uproar that they pulled it so fast, no one really saw it. So what did they do next? They closed 200 stores. Very strategic. Bu-bye GAP. Say hello to Benneton, Wranglers and Doc Martins when you get to the obsolete stage.