Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"It looks like the best scenario is to turn the business around"

That's analyst Gabrielle Kivitz -- Deutsche Bank analyst Gabrielle Kivitz -- explaining the options left for Gap now that Paul Pressler is finally leaving.

But who can do it? Who can fight gravity? Who can undo the damage of a dancing dead Audrey Hepburn? The wise and knowledgable commentor Anonymous wonders "if they have called Allen Questrom yet?" Hmm. All signs point to yes. Evidently, the search for an effective fashion-retail executive can be startling similar to hiring just the right NFL head coach.

But for now, I'm wondering if there aren't immediate lessons we can glean from the Gap story. First, this: "After joining Gap, Pressler focused on trimming debt...and buying more merchandise from lower-cost factories." Cheap, though, also has to be fast. As Virginia Postrel has pointed out: "If being stylish means having the look of the moment, fast fashion is truly democratizing style. That creates an uncomfortable situation for businesses and individuals who depend on trendiness to create customer value and maintain personal status." Uncomfortable, indeed.

Second: let's call it the Curse of the Dead Shill. The cabbage-patching cartoon Colonel Sanders, Applebee's Rat Pack and Gap -- see a pattern? So, you know: re-animate corpses at your own risk. Orville?

6 comments:

Make the logo bigger said...

Gap lost site of who they were.

Anonymous said...

Gap really needs to bring in a strong outsider such as Questrom.
It looks for sure that Micky Drexler won't be moving back to San Francisco any time soon. I love the comment he made recently that he "would go back after the Fisher family has sold every last share of Gap stock they own." Hey, after making the Fisher family billionaires they booted him to the curb when the going got tough.
Questrom is an awsome CEO. He would go in, respect the values of the company and give current management the opportunity to do what the want to do. But knowing him...if things don't work your way, you do it his way...and fast. And that means that you are accountible for your results. That would mean no more promotions for executives and merchants that do not make their goals or achieve comp sales. People that work there would leave if that happened. Not a bad thing if you ask me.
I agree that the problem is not about strategy but about product. In these days you can buy anything anywhere. You need to give the customer a reason to buy a product from you. And a good reason to buy from you is to have merchandise that resonates with the customer. People want to buy something they didn't know they wanted. Fast track merchandise will not work for a behemoth like Gap. They need to get a team in place that can forcast what the public will want, not ride the wave after the fact.
Gap still has a chance. I for one hope they can work it out. But it will take a management overhaul to make that happen. From the merchant level up to the top.

Make the logo bigger said...

My 18-year college freshman daughter/focus group says Gap needs to go back to being prep. They're trying to come off as urban which Old Navy and Timberland already are, and they look stupid.

Kids. You know I love ‘em.

Irene Done said...

Are Gap shoppers college-aged? I have no idea who Gap aims for anymore. But I too hope Gap turns it around, especially because it will make for instructive reading.

As Anonymous says, Questrom would be an awesome choice. It's fascinating to me -- a mystery really -- how companies forecast what shoppers want but he certainly seems to have that magic.

And: "People want to buy something they didn't know they wanted" is a brilliant statement.

Anonymous said...

Here's another name to consider...Rose Marie Bravo. People have not spoken much of her lately, but look what she did for Burberry. Talk about a company that was about to go under. She brought in new ideas, a laser like sense of fashion, management skills and made a dowdy brand a hot brand for a younger set. Add on top of what she did for Burberry that she really had been turning I.Magnin around when that corporate beast, Federated, shuttered that amazing store...for streamlining reasons. She could be another choice...but like Questrom, she may feel it could be too much work at her age. I hope not.

Make the logo bigger said...

The Gasp as Urban thing was more a question of the vibe she felt they give off with their current efforts.