By  on January 28, 2005

NEW YORK — Seeking growth vehicles to spark its business, Gap Inc. plans to launch its first three Banana Republic Petites stores in Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle. All three will open by the end of February, the company disclosed.

“It’s a test,” said Kris Marubio, Gap Inc. spokeswoman. “We’ve had successful petite offerings in stores that are already there” in those three cities.

She added that Banana’s collection for petites also is selling well online, giving the corporation confidence in testing the stand-alone concept. Banana Republic sells petites in just 23 of its 440-plus stores operating in the U.S. There are also 20 Banana Republic stores in Canada. However, the stores that include petites do not necessarily sell the full collection. The test stores, noted Marubio, will sell the complete petites line.

BusinessWeek Online first reported that Banana Republic will open the stand-alone petites stores in 2005 and cited statistics from the U.S. National Center for Health stating that 56 percent of U.S. women fall in the petite category, defined as 5 feet, 4 inches or shorter. 

The $2 billion Banana Republic is considered a mature concept in the U.S. However, it is considered an expansion vehicle in other countries under its regular size format, and could grow under other formats because of its widely recognized brand name.

In November, the parent Gap Inc. said three Banana units would open in Tokyo in fall 2005. Japan is Banana Republic’s first market outside North America. Other foreign markets are being considered for Banana Republic. Old Navy is also a potential expansion vehicle outside North America. The Gap brand already operates outside North America, in the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

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