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2006.10.06

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drunken monkey

See, I am currently wearing three items from the Gap, bought this fall. To be fair, one was purchased this week for $30, marked down from $80, which is obviously significant; they can't have made much money on it.

I really like a lot of their fall line; the analysts seemed to like it too. But there are a lot of markdowns right now (which is great if you're me), and it seems to be across the styles -- dressier pants, jeans, cotton items, jackets, even basic t-shirts. That's probably not a great sign.

They seem to have a couple of pieces that are selling really well, based on my general observations as a shopper (like the skinny pants I mentioned on another post, and that the reporter mention in the Yahoo article). But they also seem to be missing the mark more often than not. Are people buying one item and leaving the rest? Are they waiting for sales?

I have spent way too much time thinking about this.

drunken monkey

Oh, and I've used a coupon that I got on their Canadian site for everything I purchased at Gap this month. So there's that; even buying the items before they go on sale sometimes, I'm still getting a 15% discount.

Lisa

DM, I just don't know if people even think to check the Gap for clothing anymore.

The teens I worked with at the pool this summer certainly didn't -- their idea of where to get casual-clothing staples was American Eagle. And those of us in older demos have our own definitions of stores for basics.

What I think is v. interesting is that *Old Navy* seems to have hit the sweet spot with regards to "trendy basics" + price. I've been watching Sundrybuzz.com because what I find so interesting about THAT shopping blog is how Linda focuses not on aspirational goods or specific aesthetics or novelty, but rather on stuff she likes to use, and of the clothes she's featured, there's stuff from Old Navy and Eddie Bauer. (She's a good curator of stuff I'd put in the "well-crafted basics" category.)

I can't articulate what the Gap chain stands for -- who their customer is, what role the Gap sees their clothes playing in the customers' lives -- because I can't figure it out. That could be trouble: the brands that have had very strong, consistent sales (Ann Taylor, Coldwater Creek, Chico's, are three I can think of) tend to know who their customer is. See also the earlier Rage Diaries entry on the Ann Taylor CEO.

(I always like talking to ppl from those three brands, because I am always charmed by how affectionately they refer to their customer.)

The other thing those three brands seem to be doing right, IMO: they focus on the customer first, then how she's likely to interpret trends. I love Urban Outfitters' brands (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie) and Hot Topics' brands (Hot Topic, Torrid), but both companies have had rocky sales recently, and I wonder if it's because people don't identify with the brand so much as they do with trends the brand stands for. I don't dispute that Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters have ideas as to who their customers are, but I suspect that if you're associated very strongly with a trendy movement, that tends to overwhelm your own customer-ID focus.

drunken monkey

I find a lot of what's at American Eagle too casual, although it helps now that not every pair of jeans in the place is ripped to shreds. Going in there is starting to make me feel old. And I'm not in Ann Taylor's category, I'm guessing (I've never been in a store; I don't think we have them in Canada). Their clothing is nice and they do what they do very well, but it's just not what I'm after. And it sounds like they're fine with that, to their benefit.

I thought about Old Navy too -- they've moved to reposition themselves as a trendier retailer and it seems to have paid off some for them. What I found curious is that Old Navy's denim seems to be doing well -- flipping through, they are pretty well cleared out of most sizes at the store near me -- but Gap's...not so much. Note my above-mentioned much reduce pants. I wear a size that's fairly popular, and I never have trouble finding it there, even in clearance. (May I also bitch that they got rid of the very simple and useful denim fits and replaced them with a very complicated system? Bastards.)

I'm guessing that could be to do with both price and the fact that Old Navy's younger customer cares more about trendy denim styles, whereas one at Gap might find it confusing to sort through a bunch of different styles each season just to find a pair of bootcut jeans. If they are, in fact, trying to get the customer who wants modern basics. It's hard to tell. I agree that Gap doesn't seem to know who they're after. They're getting me right now, because they happen to be making stuff I like -- and I walk by three Gap stores on my way home from work, so I've become quite familiar with what's in their windows. It's not because they've captured what I, as a young professional in her mid-20s, am looking for in a brand. There have been several seasons over the past few years where I've barely gone in the store at all.

They used to be after -- and getting -- several demographics, back when those "Everyone in Khakis" ads were huge. But things shifted, and they haven't repositioned themselves yet. They did a pretty good job of capturing the trend shift this season, I think, but they didn't capture it for a particular customer, and that's where they've gone wrong.

I'm going to check out that blog.

marylynn

All of this reminds me that before I left town I got something in the mail from Forth & Towne. I had no idea they would even have things in my size, but apparently they do. Looking at the website it looks like their local stores are open - Lisa, we need to do some in person retail reconaissance!

Lisa

It's a date! I would love that.

Dave

The items at old navy tend to be lower quality but less expensive than other stores.

-Anne
Old Navy Coupons

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