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Goodbye Gap, I will see you in Cyberspace!


By Clotilde Gros

Who shops at Gap? A quick poll round the office, turns out not many people: mothers mainly for their children (me for my boys!) and 35+ dads. Basically, those customers who were old enough in the early 1990s to remember how cool Gap sweatshirts and hoodies were and watches Reality Bites on VHS from their local video rentals. Millennials and Gen Z know of it but would not really consider it as a ‘go to’ brand. Gap’s big problem is that it has struggled to stay relevant and evolve with modern times.

Last week, the company said it would close all its 81 UK and Ireland stores "in a phased manner" between the end of August and the end of September. The firm said it was "not exiting the UK market" and would continue to offer a web-based store when all the shops had closed. There is no doubt that France and Italy will be next in my opinion. The news was another big hit for the UK high street, but not a big surprise.

I remember seeing a piece of research from ISSUU that stated that Gap's target audience is 18-28 year olds. The brand’s target audience might that that age group, but in reality, in the more the 35-50. Gap needs to reposition itself to ensure the longevity of the brand. It needs to evolve and 1) address the different market dynamics, 2) find a way to engage with those younger customers and 3) most important try to move away from the discounted model.

Point one is easily addressed – and in a way that the brunt of it has been done through the store closure. The savings made from closing down their stores could be reinvested in the online offer and make the shopping experience online.

Point three is a bit more difficult – once your customers are used to increased discount, trying to bring them back to paying full price is hard – but not something Gap cannot rectify in the longer term. Particularly since it is moving to online only, and as a result are considerably reducing costs.

The most important point is about bringing back those new customers and how the brand can start to engage and communicate with them? We are already starting to see that change, Gap recently launched "Generation Good" campaign, which tapped creators and teen activists working for a positive, inclusive future, has resonated with consumers. Gap is slowly moving to become a brand with a purpose.

There is a lot that needs to be done but the ‘Gap revolution’ is underway. It will be interesting to keep an eye on how they will reposition and modernise the brand. I personally love the brand, not for me but for my boys, as I nostalgically look at their Gap hooded grey sweatshirt remembering I have one just like that in my teens. Count me in as your customer, Gap! I will see you in cyberspace!