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The Gap’s struggle to stay hip

June 18, 2015

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With its iconic logo and simple, everyday style, Gap was once a staple in wardrobes everywhere.

Now, not so much.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the clothing company plans to close 175 of its namesake stores and cut 250 jobs at its headquarters. It will close 140 Gap stores in North American by Jan. 31.

The closings follow recent changes in management and leadership at Gap Inc., as well as some updates to the brand’s line of clothing, according to the paper. Closing the stores should help the company save around $25 million a year.

However, Old Navy, another brand owned by Gap Inc. has thrived as of late, as The New York Times reported in May. So why is Gap falling behind?

Many believe the Gap brand just isn’t fashionable among young people anymore.

Retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told U.S. News and World Report that many young people see Gap clothing as something “for moms and kids” and that Old Navy clothing is “more up to date with trends.” Other competing brands like Ann Taylor and J. Crew have run into similar problems attracting Millennials as well.

Style is not completely to blame, however, as more and more people are shopping for clothing online. That’s lured consumers away from shopping malls, U.S. News reported in March, with more than two dozen malls closing across the country since 2010.

In response, Gap will give more attention to its online sales as well as attracting more customers to the websites of its different brands through social media. It’s already an aggressive online marketer, doling out regular discounts to its frequent customers.

Despite all the gloom, there is some hope for Gap and other clothing retailers. As the economy improves, outdoor shopping centers are becoming more and more popular, according to U.S. News.

U.S. shopping centers averaged a 92.7 percent occupancy rate at the end of 2014. That’s the highest it’s been since 2008.

But even if people are visiting shopping centers, stores like Gap still need to get them inside, especially young shoppers, if they want to build any continued success.

Old Navy has certainly revitalized its brand with its relatively inexpensive merchandise and style that Millennials value. Gap might have a few more hurdles in its way, but it’s taking solid first step by updating its approach.

There are a lot of implications for local malls and shopping centers with this story. Find out if the Gap store in your area is one of the 175 that will be closing and gauge the situation for other clothing retailers in the area. Check up on your local mall or shopping center and see how business has been recently.


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  • Rian Bosse

    Rian Bosse is a PhD student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. He earned his undergraduate degree in English from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012 and worked for a small daily newspaper, the Daily Journal, in his hometown o...

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