A friend recently forwarded me this article on the perpetual folly that is the Gap. He, like me, was once an ally of the struggling chain, turning to the stalwart for all his cotton t-shirt needs. But despite the talent at its helm, and a decent denim collection this past fall, the brand cannot seem to get out of its own way.
The downward trend (in terms of both style and stock) is the culmination of several factors, all slowly sucking the life out of the American chain. When people think of the brand, the classic boy-next-door, adorned in plaid and khaki with a hooded sweatshirt for good measure, comes to mind. Rumple his hair, add a distressed messenger bag, and you have the window display for the past decade. But in an era where premium denim reigns supreme, and jean brands are as pricey as their names are pompous (Citizens of Humanity? Seven for All Mankind? Not all mankind can spend $300 on denim, nor does all of humanity really shop at Bloomingdales) the Gap has fallen into a rut.
And because it is the Gap, and not Banana Republic, is anyone willing to spend more than $58 on a cotton sweater? If you, like many, have found your beloved $10 white t misshapen and not fit for sleeping after a few washes, you're not alone. The catch 22 of sorts is trying to build a collection within a budget, and make it appear to exude quality, without actually upping production costs (Industry standard is a mark up, or profit margin, of about 72%-75%). You cant spend more making the clothes without raising retail, yet you can't raise retail without changing attitudes so that shoppers will shell out the extra $10-$20. So what is to be done? Though news of any retailer facing impending doom is saddening for me, there is a certain survival of the fittest and market competition at the heart of capitalism that I can't fight. While I hope to see Patrick Robinson live up to his infinite potential, I'd also settle for some quality cotton t's circa 1995.