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Gap to shift focus to Old Navy, Athleta stores

Published:Thursday | September 7, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Old Navy shorts on display. Gap Inc will be focusing more on growing its Old Navy and Athleta store chains.

Gap Inc plans to shift its focus to its growing Old Navy and Athleta stores, and away from the Gap and Banana Republic brands.

The company said Wednesday it will close about 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores in the next three years and open about 270 Old Navy and Athleta locations during the same period.

Lower-priced Old Navy has been a bright spot for the clothing retailer, posting rising sales even as they fell at the Gap and Banana Republic.

The San Francisco-based company says Old Navy is on track to surpass US$10 billion in sales in the next few years. And Athleta, which sells athletic clothing, is expected to exceed US$1 billion in sales. The company expects to reap about US$500 million in savings over the next three years by better taking advantage of its scale.

"We continue to move with the customer and meet them where they are," Gap CEO Art Peck told analysts Wednesday at a Goldman Sachs Global Annual Retailing conference that was broadcast over the Internet.

Gap's moves are the latest to reinvent the chain and are being spearheaded by Peck, who took the helm in 2015.

The company faces the same problems as other fashion retailers, as shoppers buy less clothing in general and shop more at off-price chains or buy online when they do. That has resulted in sluggish traffic at the stores. But Gap Inc also has long struggled with its own problems, mired in a sales slump as its clothes don't stand out in an overcrowded landscape.

Gap has been offering frequent discounts to get shoppers to buy, but recently it's been trying to pull back on price cutting. It's also been working hard to improve fit - a problem that has long bedevilled the retailer - and it's been trying to rework its fashions. The company has been cutting its store numbers over the last decade or so. Since 2005, the chain has closed 650 stores and reduced its square footage by five million square feet, Peck said.

Peck told analysts that its online and mobile business has seen the highest sales and profitability growth of the divisions. The company has also been expanding its online services to meet the demands of its customers, including an option that allows shoppers to reserve an item online and pick it up at a store. It's also testing a subscription service at its Baby Gap brand.

- AP