Nothing lasts forever and Gap is here to remind us all of that, as the giant apparel retailer declared it’s closing 175 stores in North America, as a paradoxical growth strategy.
The sad story behind GAP goes like this:
There was a time when Sharon Stone used to appear on the Red carpet dressed in that popular GAP T-shirt we all craved for. There was a time when dressing normal was cool, before the postmodern focus on individuality and uniqueness arose. GAP was one of the most popular stores worldwide and you just couldn’t visit one without laying your eyes on that pair of jeans you saw Winona Rider wearing in Reality Bites.
Reality bites hard industries that were unable to adapt at a quick pace to the modern consumers. GAP has already experienced a considerable row of cutbacks in the past years. Presently, North America will include 500 regular price stores and 300 outlets, from a total of 675 shops. The 175 stores that will soon be closed are regular-price GAP showrooms.
The flaw in GAP is that it remained true to itself, retailing basic clothes that can be worn in most fantastic combos, provided one has the imaginative skills to develop an outstanding outfit. The e-commerce craze has not reached the GAP headquarters and this brought stagnation in the first place and postmodern industry deconstruction in the second.
Millennials are deeply concentrated on the shiny and provocative clothes that stand out from the crowd, rather than the basic GAP T-shirt and that pair of jeans that only dressed up the powerful attitude behind the clothes. The Grunge era is long gone and with it, GAP slowly started drowning in a sea of cheap and sleek shops, e-commerce stores and fast-consuming merchandise.
The company is also preparing to cut down 250 positions at its San Francisco headquarters, which means trouble is getting serious. These measures come after long fights to keep a decent position in the preference box of customers that are more inclined to go to cheap and cheerful H&M or sleek and chic ZARA.
In a recent attempt to revamp its brand, GAP promoted headlines like “dress normal” or “dress like no one’s watching”, but no one cares anymore about what’s normal and everybody wants to be watched and admired. This happened ever since the tech era started taking shape and making us slaves of appearance and futile images.
GAP is nevertheless a victim of fast changing, fast moving, fast consuming people, societies, industries, that mostly survive not because they bring added value, but because they can adapt at a very rapid pace to the public’s requests. And the public wants to always be pampered with novelty, even if that’s a futile and empty space, rather than make a statement of decency and value by keeping what once was the voice of a generation coming from lockers, grungy concert halls, unconventional red carpet appearances or personal wardrobes that used to carry at least a GAP item.
GAP dressed up movie stars, music celebrities, normal people and wannabes. It was the recognizable stamp of a generation that was still struggling to have a common voice, either through clothes or movies or make up. Now everyone feels the urge to stand out from the crowd and be defined by unique individuality, which puts us, the majority of people, in a pretty lonely place.
And GAP feels it too, with sales falling in the last three months leading up to May 2, as Wall Street Journal puts it. Its shares are down about 9% by now, for the year. The downward lane is rolling farther, as GAP announced they are preparing to close a number of European locations too, although the exact figures are unknown yet.
We will always have Kurt Cobain wearing those checkered T-shirts and the witty existential crisis movies of the 90’s. Prozac Generation, Reality Bites will be here still, to remind us of how clothes were less important than attitude. That all happened thanks to GAP too, that has made possible for clothes to be just normal clothes worn by powerful people, a much better perspective than what our contemporary times offer: powerful clothes for mundane people. Cheers to you, GAP.
Image Source: ruthdesouza.com