I knew the Gap's fall '04 line was in trouble the day I was in a small store on Main St. in Santa Monica, not 100 feet from a Gap, and two women looked at the ad on the back of the magazine I was holding, wrinkled their noses and said, "God, that Sex & the City chick is tan."
That would be because the woman splayed across the page in a posture of false vivacity ... was Jada Pinkett Smith.
But there's a larger point here: your ad campaign is not working when the target audience can't be bothered to keep the spots straight.
I thought about those women yesterday when I saw a commercial where Sarah Jessica prances around in the Gap's new spring line, singing, "I Enjoy Being a Girl."
This is an unfortunate campaign for two reasons. First, the clothing looks like it was inspired by dictators, then given a "girly" twist by adding sequins and pink at the last minute; it's entirely too easy to imagine Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., flouncing around in these and purring, "When men say I'm sweet as candy, when around in a dance we whirl, it goes to my head like brandy, I enjoy being a girl..."
Second, the campaign was launched mere weeks after Prada set the fashion world on its ear by deciding we're all ready to resume looking like confident adults, as opposed to kittenish adolscents playing with gender roles. (See the coverage of Prada's latest collection over at the Manolo's Prada weblog -- long, juicy excerpts and erudite analysis abounds!)
So you're looking at a relatively uninspiring line, backed by an ad campaign that feels five minutes behind the mood shift in fashion. But since fall is a long way off in shoppers' minds (July, at least), that ought to allow the Gap plenty of time to rack up sales from shoppers who enjoy being girls, right?
Wrong. Gap's February same-store sales dropped 3%, compared to a 12% rise in February 04. Same-store sales are used to measure the amount of business done in stores, excluding any impact that newly-opened stores might have had on the bottom line. For example, it's possible to simultanenously log a 2% sales gain and a 5% drop in same-store sales -- it means that your overall sales were lifted because you opened more outlets, while the ones you already had open are doing less business.
Going on the same-store sales, you see that your local Gap's possibly doing less business than it was a year ago. But maybe it's an off month? No -- Gap's same-store sales have logged declines since June 04, with only one exception -- Oct 04. (Stories here: June, July, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan -- all courtesy of the San Francisco Business Journal and Sacramento Business Journal)
Clearly, something's not working for the brand. I don't know what's not working -- is it the lack of any must-have items? Is it dissatisfaction with merchandise? Is it a lack of basics that people replenish on a regular basis? You tell me. Please. I'm at a loss for explanations.
Whatever it is, I'll be curious to see how next month's sales turn out. I wonder exactly how many shoppers will buy a married, multimillionaire mother pushing forty telling us how much she enjoys being a girl.