GAP: CASUAL BID ON WALL ST.
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Gap went to work on Wall Street Friday.
For the first time in its 205-year history, the New York Stock Exchange allowed its 3,500 traders to dress down in khakis and casual button-down cotton shirts provided by Gap.
To mark the occasion — one that is not expected to be repeated — Millard S. Drexler, president and chief executive officer of Gap Inc.; Michael McCadden, senior vice president of marketing, and Robert Fisher, president of the Gap division, turned out to ring the bell to start the day’s trading.
“We wanted to address the last bastion of conservatism in America. Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange symbolized that,” Fisher said. “We wanted to show our customers in America and around the world that casual dressing is something Gap can supply them with. It’s also something that is here to stay, like the New York Stock Exchange.”
Most of the men on the floor, as well as the three Gap executives, completed their khaki outfits with a traditional touch — a necktie — and many, including the Gap executives, wore blazers.
The event was part of the new Gap at Work advertising campaign, which officially broke Thursday. Thirty-second radio spots and print ads playing up the occasion will continue in 11 markets through Oct. 7, a company spokeswoman said. Gap is distributing a guide to casual dressing to customers in its 800 stores. The spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s budget for the project.
On the wall behind the podium was a huge banner imprinted with the Gap logo, an image of a stack of khakis; the tag line, “Gap at Work,” and “GPS [its stock symbol] listed NYSE.” On Broad Street near the entrance to the NYSE, Gap commercials and live shots of the trading floor were played on a large screen. The radio spot — complete with background noise from the trading floor — was aired.
Passers-by on Broad Street could take a close look at an on-line primer in casual dressing. Under a tent, computer terminals hooked up to Gap’s Web site were open to the public, and users could create virtual outfits. Gap employees distributed bottled Gap water at another tent.
The NYSE does not plan to offer casual Fridays on a regular basis, a spokeswoman said, and most of the female traders took advantage of this unusual opportunity by dressing down in Gap clothes.
Attired in khakis, a button-down shirt and navy blue blazer instead of one of her standard wool suits, Louise Jones, president of Cassidy, Jones & Co., said, “This is definitely not anything close to what I would normally wear — except for the blazer and the Ferragamo shoes. I tried to dress it up a bit.”
There was a mixed reaction to the event, said Jones. “The older, hard-line companies don’t want to dress down.”
Robert Scavone Jr., senior managing partner at Scavone, McKenna & Cloud, said, “After wearing a suit on the floor for 18 years, it’s a nice change for a day.”
Taking a break from trading, Anne Harvey, a trader with Robertson Stephens, was dressed in a navy wool suit.
“My father is a specialist and he’s always said the most important thing in business is how you present yourself,” she said. “This is an incentive for the Gap.”
Harvey said she planned to leave the unworn Gap khakis she picked up earlier in the week in one of the bins provided by the NYSE for donations of clothing.
The NYSE was busy Friday doing its own advertising.
The NYSE aims to cross-market with many other listed companies, said Richard Grasso, chairman and ceo.
“For us, this is a chance to allow our companies to use the platform of the New York Stock Exchange as a theater to show their products or marketing,” Grasso said. “It’s also an opportunity to show what can happen on the exchange. When this company listed 21 years ago, it had less than 5 million outstanding shares. Today there are one-quarter of a billion outstanding shares. Now, another company that’s trading elsewhere might consider us.”
When asked about the initial reaction to the exchange’s first casual day, Mike LaBranche, senior managing director of LaBranche & Co., a specialist in Gap stock, said, “The stock’s up today.” Gap closed Friday at 50 1/4 — up 1/4 on the NYSE.