There’s a new wrinkle in the protracted campaign to revive Gap stores in the U.S.: make them more like Gap stores abroad.
“We see the international team having a much bigger say in not only how our brands operate in global markets but how they operate in the U.S.,” Gap Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Glenn Murphy said Wednesday at the Piper Jaffrey Consumer Conference, where he gave his prescription for resurrecting the $14.7 billion retailer’s operations in North America, specifically Gap brand.
The louder international voice “will be fairly noticeable next year and a little bit this holiday,” said Murphy, who underscored Gap’s Global Creative Center in New York, launched in February, as the primary vehicle for change.
Murphy said the center houses all the creative components integral to the business — product design, marketing, in-store experience and windows — and has a mission to create “one assortment and one big seasonal marketing message around the world.” He also said it’s stacked with Americans with Gap International experience and know-how on competing against H&M, Inditex and Uniqlo, which in the U.S. are stealing market share from Gap.
According to another Gap source, “Each market from around the world has been shopping the center’s ‘global line’ with the needs of their consumers in mind. Some specific designs happen but for the most part it is one global design offering. Each country still has their own visual presentation guides and the direction for windows is country-specific. Store design is somewhat globalized as well but is a bit newer to the game.”
Overseas, Gap stores perform better than their dated U.S. counterparts because they’re newer, look fresher and sell some fashion-forward products. About 25 percent of the product line is different from the U.S. stores. In addition, “The U.S. stores buy superconservative,” said one source formerly close to the business. “Gap stores overseas have more of a point of view. Jean fits can be ahead of the curve, and the stores sell more premium products.”
In the U.K., Gap has a cashmere program. “Gap in the U.S. never does that,” the source said. “In Japan, the stores are immaculate and really creative. The visual standards are much higher.”
Murphy portrayed Gap as “still a strong iconic brand that resonates well internationally” yet one in the throes of “big changes in terms of people, structure and globalization,” he stressed. “We have been tapping at the edges of Gap brand in North America. It’s not good enough. It needs significant change,” and in particular, more of the flavor of the international stores, to restore the traffic and “buzz” that’s been missing for years.
“One of the benefits of having an international business is creating a two-way street. Learnings from Milan, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing — all of that shows up now in New York City, which is the epicenter,” Murphy said, referring to the Gap flagship on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street.
In outlining other recovery steps, Murphy cited “an amazing opportunity to have a better balance between specialty and value” and “reducing the dependency on the specialty business in North America.” Since Murphy took the helm at Gap in 2007, he’s brought the Gap store count in North America down to about 900 units from 1,150, and sees 700 units operating by 2013. He’s further reducing square footage by closing freestanding GapKids and babyGap stores and relocating them into Gap Adult stores.
On the other hand, the outlet channel can really grow, Murphy believes, with Gap outlets in the U.S. seen adding 50 to 60 locations, bringing the chain up to 250, and Banana Republic factory outlets adding about 40 sites, bringing that business to 150 sites. Murphy also said China has “huge potential” for outlets.
Gap’s recovery also hinges on developing a nimble, shorter product pipeline to keep costs down, work with fewer vendors and stay closer to consumer trends, Murphy said.
The four-year-old Piperlime division recently added women’s merchandise and will add men’s wear this fall, and Athleta is “developing aggressively,” with two stores operating and eight more opening this year. With Athleta, Murphy said, “We believe we have a tiger by the tail.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast