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the real Gap

A brief of an article from TIME, February 5, 2007
Why The Gap Keeps Getting Crushed / by Kristina Dell

With 2,994 stores and $16.3 billion in sales at its peak, the Gap kingdom had become so enormous that the only way for Gap to keep growing was to design clothes that appeal to the general public and sell millions and millions of units. But once everyone’s wardrobe had a pair of khakis, a white button-down and a few pocket Ts, consumers became bored. Gap’s sales fell 2%, to $14.8 billion last year. “It used to be that the Gap dictated fashion, but now customers have so many resources, they dictate what they want and see if a store has it,” comments Marshall Cohen, chief analyst at the NPD Group.





Lately, those Gap bored customers have been shopping heavily at H&M, Zara, Mexx, and other so called fast-fashion boutiques. These fast-fashion boutiques have created a competitive advantage over Gap: production cycle and reaction time. Where as Gap, with its enormous operations and slow reaction time, takes huge risks of guessing up front how the season’s trend will play out (skinny jeans? newsboy caps?) and making huge bets on limited ideas (ever wonder why Gap has so many items on sale after the season? They missed their guesses.), fast-fashion boutiques have figured out a way to cut clothing cycle down from six months to six weeks. This quick production cycle and fast reaction time enables these stores to constantly replenish their racks with fresh styles, attracting today’s easily bored customers to their stores.

Can the gap between customer taste and the company be filled? Many fingers seem to point at the same direction: Each of the three brands, Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic, to focus on a specific customer demographic. “The combination is overly complex and unmanageable,” says Todd Slater, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets.

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