One of San Francisco's bigger employers, Gap Inc., could potentially be seeking bankruptcy protection according to the Chronicle in a speculative piece that came out just before the holiday weekend. Though the official word from the company is that they have a perfectly healthy balance sheet, word on the street is that brands like Gap are struggling mightily against trendier fast-fashion stores like Uniqlo and H&M, and that if Gap can't turn things around quickly and increase sales, they're going to end up in a "death cycle of closing stores to cut costs."

About this time last year, Gap announced a small round of layoffs and store closures, saying they would be letting go of 250 employees and closing 175 of its North American store locations. That was followed by news from ten days ago that they would be closing 75 Old Navy and Banana Republic locations outside the US, including 53 Old Navy stores in Japan in an effort to save $275 million in annual costs.

But the bigger problem may be the brands themselves, the quality of the merchandise, and the company's poor early effort when it came to e-commerce, as the Chronicle reports. Also, there's the slow death of malls across the country, where Gap has located the vast majority of its stores.

Chicago-based retail consultant Brian Kelly tells the paper, “Gap’s time has passed,” and “They are not even taking care of their stores." And Carol Spieckerman, president of the Spieckerman Retail consulting group, suggests that the bigger picture has meant trouble for other brands too like Abercrombie & Fitch and J. Crew, because "We are operating in a trendless environment" and "Gap is in a lot more vulnerable position than other retailers, because they held on to this dictatorial bent [about what’s fashionable] a little bit longer than necessary. The game has shifted to react to consumers rather than dictate the fashion."

Bloomberg reports
that, despite consumer spending being on the rise in recent months, "Mall-based retailers have had a particularly tough May." Gap's stock is currently down 19 percent.

A Gap spokesperson insists the company has "healthy free cash flow," but their public financials show a pretty dismal picture. Their free cash flow was $868 million in 2015, down a whopping 38 percent from $1.4 billion the previous year.

Still, all of this remains speculation, and brands have reinvented themselves before — Abercrombie & Fitch being a prime example.

But more news about store closures seems likely on its way.

Previously: Gap Lays Off 250 Employees, Announces Closure Of 175 Stores