How GAP bounced back #TheStreetScene

A look in to the brand that had seen a decline over the past twenty years, but are now starting to make a name for themselves again

GAP, professionally known as The Gap Inc, is an American clothing retailer and is known around the world for being right at the top of the affordable clothing hierarchy. Founded in 1969 by Donald Fisher and his wife Doris Fisher in San Francisco, California, Gap was formed to help “bridge the gap” between adult and children’s clothing, targeting a young adult demographic.

Back in the late 1960’s, Donald Fisher was great friends with Walter Haas Jr, who was the president of Levi’s, with Fisher amazed by the sudden success of the brand as consumers were desperate for a pair of their blue jeans. These were what the customer wanted, and they were seen as the “go-to” jean style, inspiring Fisher to start his own company that would sell Levi’s products, but having a special deal with Haas Jr, so that this company would stock all Levi’s apparel in all styles and sizes. This was so that the store would never be out of stock from the in-demand products that people were so desperate for.

The first Gap store. Image from Pinterest

The second Gap store was opened in 1970 in San Jose, and within the following year the company had a headquarters based in California. Within the space of a couple years, there were 25 different locations across the US where there were Gap stores, coming a long way in such a short space of time. Due to the success, Gap started to sell their own private label clothing under their own name, with the company growing across the world as they made a name for themselves. This was the way forward for the brand.

A 1985 advertisement for The Gap. Image from Pinterest

The iconic ‘GAP’ logo, all in capital letters, embroidered on to a simple-coloured t-shirt, paired with blue jeans, was what people wanted to buy in the 80’s and 90’s. Gap defined fashion within these couple of decades, and the business was right at the top of the industry, beating all of its competitors. Unfortunately, as it hit the new millennium, Gap struggled massively. Times were changing and consumers were moving quickly, and Gap struggled to keep up with what people wanted, especially in places such as the US and the UK where their audiences were based. Their CEO at that current time in the early 2000’s, Millard Drexler, was sacked from his position due to a decline in sales spanning 29 months. The brand still struggled as the 2000’s carried on, not having a clear focus point within the market, alongside problems within the business of recruiting someone to take the brand forward. By 2013, Gap closed over 180 of its stores in the US, which accounts for just over 20% of their overall store count across the globe. It was a tough time for the brand that had fallen so quickly in such a short space of time.

On the other hand, their stores across the world started to expand. The brand realised that maybe the problem was that they were too focused on western countries, and saw that there was interest from a wider audience. Gap expanded its presence in countries such as China and Brazil, with there being a growing interest from several other countries. Alongside this sudden worldwide growth, Gap decided to update their logo in 2016, removing the blue box from their iconic brand image and replace it with GAP spelt out in a strong black font. This was alongside other noticeable brands within the fashion industry changing from their old iconic logos to a more modern style.

The iconic Gap logo on a simple hoodie. Image from Pinterest

The end of the decade was good to Gap, as mentioned beforehand. This new decade allows Gap to reinvent themselves once again as a major affordable fashion brand, as they try to keep up with the current market. Their “vintage” style of clothing grew in popularity towards the end of the 2010’s, as people liked the aesthetic, especially with social media influencers being a growing industry. As mentioned in the previous #TheStreetScene article here, Kanye West announced the collaboration between his brand Yeezy and Gap, with this collaboration looking to bring in $1 billion in annual sales. For a ten-year partnership between the two brands, this seems like it could give the extra push to Gap in order to help build them back up to the top of the fashion market.

The YeezyGap collaboration logo

GapKids are also currently celebrating the “changemakers of tomorrow” in their ‘be the future’ campaign, which features several youth activists that are spreading the word on climate change and the importance of voting. Having launched last week on 12th August 2020, specifically on International Youth Day, Gap are trying to reach out to their younger target audience by showing that they do care about the world as much as they care for their product. More information can be found here on their official website. Collaborations and campaigns seem to be the way forward for Gap, and the future looks bright for the brand as they are set to bounce back from a very tough couple of decades.

Written by Matthew Nicoll for #TheStreetScene