Can Patrick Robinson Finally Get People to Shop at the Gap?

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Photo: Bryan Bedder/WireImage for Vogue

Despite its numerous high-fashion partnerships, including sponsoring this week's Met Gala, the CFDA white-shirt project, and designer collaborations with people like Alexander Wang, women don't seem to care about the Gap. They haven't seemed to care since the nineties, and The Wall Street Journal places enormous pressure today on executive vice-president for global design Patrick Robinson to fix that. This week, the label is expected to announce its first quarterly same-store sales increase in more than five years — also a first since Robinson's been onboard. But it feels a bit like watching a spider struggle to emerge from a dripping wet sink basin, when even if they succeed (and are you dying for them to?) they're still crippled.

Net sales for 2009 were $5.6 billion, 14 percent lower than 2006, the year before Robinson came aboard. CEO Glenn Murphy said, "We have not been happy with the performance" since late 2007. And of Robinson: "I think he would like to have some redos."

The Journal suggests that Robinson should be nervous about all this, since he's responsible for turning the merch around. "I like how big of a challenge it is," he told the reporter, as though interviewing for a job. Though he has done some stuff for Gap, like relaunch denim so that the pants felt like they cost $200, it hasn't been enough. When was the last time you felt excited about Gap? For us it was probably middle school. And even if we needed something banal today, like socks or a camisole, we can't say we'd look there, even with a 25 percent off promotion. And Middle America can get the same stuff at Wal-Mart.

"Where's the sizzle?" asks John D. Morris, a retail analyst with BMO Capital Markets.


Yes, where is the sizzle? It probably won't come from sponsoring the Met Gala. Though Gap slapped its name on a few red-carpet dresses, the most exciting part of the evening, sartorially speaking, was Katy Perry's light-up dress, and the only person that benefited was Katy Perry, who was finally No. 1 of something. The Gap is like the newsstand version of Vogue: You just kind of always wonder why they don't SEE it.

At Gap, Two Brands on Mend, One to Go [WSJ]