5 Ways Gap Is Turning Around W/O Changing Its Product

Gap campaign

It’s no secret that Gap has been having problems — the chain retailer has plans to close 200 stores by 2013, and it parted ways this spring with former head designer Patrick Robinson.  And yet in a multi-pronged push to turn things around, the company is innovating, and seeing some results.

An image from one of Gap’s summer 2011 ad campaigns.  Style-wise, they’re sticking to the basics.

Gap’s approach to flagging sales has been business-minded, not design-oriented — in other words, they’re changing their business model rather than their clothes. Here’s a rundown of what’s been happening:

  • In the U.S., where a value-driven approach has seen some success, the retailer plans on opening 75 new stores, the bulk of which will be outlets.
  • Meanwhile, international outposts of Gap, like recent stores opened in China and Italy, are outperforming their U.S. counterparts, and the brand intends to continue growing the full line abroad.  Last year, they also launched e-commerce in over 80 countries.
  • And when it comes to social networking and new technology, the retailer has been leading the pack. Some of their initiatives, like a virtual bargaining site, are downright experimental.
  • Social deals are also a part of Gap’s repertoire — they’ve offered both Groupon discounts and clever Facebook promotions.
  • Last but not least, the chain is no stranger to branded content.  Gap even launched its own style blog, GapMag, earlier this year.

As for the rest of Gap, Inc.’s turnaround strategy, the company will be shrinking the size of Old Navy stores (many are two stories when they could easily be one), opening 8 to 10 more Athleta shops, and leaving Banana Republic entirely alone.

But will all these tactics transform sales, without any shift in design?  Gap has major brand recognition as a purveyor of American basics — and maybe that’s why a product overhaul doesn’t seem to factor into their turnaround strategy.  Our curiosity is piqued — we want to see whether a focus on international markets, closing under-performing stores, and attacking through the internet via all fronts (rather than changing up their actual style) will get Gap the numbers it wants.