As you've likely heard, Gap is in trouble. The San Francisco-based clothing company faces declining sales and is on the verge of closing dozens of stores as shoppers look elsewhere for their sartorial needs. One central problem, as Bloomberg reports and has been noted in recent years, likely has to do with the company's failure to realize that conformity is no longer hip.
The situation is perhaps best exemplified by Gap's failed 2014 "Dress Normal" ad campaign which, as Ad Week reported at the time, was widely considered to be a flub. " 'Dress Normal' boldly instructs individuals to shape their own authentic, personal style—and intentionally challenges every one of us to dress for ourselves," the campaign press release confusingly read.
To add to its failure to connect with consumers, industry analyst Simeon Siegel told Bloomberg that Gap's 3,700 physical locations have become more of an albatross than an asset. The company is “simply too large in the new normal where physical distribution has become a liability and uniformity is no longer ‘cool,’ ” he explained.
Retail consultant Carol Spieckerman put it this way, back in May, to the Chronicle: "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."
Gap yesterday reported that the brand's sales (as opposed to other Gap-owned brands like Old Navy) were down 3 percent in the third quarter, and a full 9 percent for Banana Republic. As noted by Forbes, this decline isn't new for the company. Gap faced a first-quarter drop of 6 percent this year when compared to first-quarter sales last year.
Back in May, Forbes identified Gap's stores as a hindrance to their growth in the face of e-commerce challengers. It seems now, with the announced store closures, Gap is again looking to address that issue.
What that means for the future of the company is unclear — this, of course, isn't the first time Gap has been forced to close stores. However, if the brand is to compete with challengers like H&M, shuttering stores may not be enough. Instead, Gap may need to think outside the box for a solution that, well, isn't so normal.
Related: Could Gap Be Declaring Bankruptcy Soon?
Gap Lays Off 250 Employees, Announces Closure Of 175 Stores