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05-05-2011
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Patrick Robinson Dismissed at Gap
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Gap Dismisses Its Design Chief as Sales Falter

Gap, dealing with faltering sales and clothes that do not seem to hit the right note, has dismissed its star design chief, Patrick Robinson.

No successor has been named yet.

Mr. Robinson, who joined retail chain in 2007, was a hire that fashion insiders loved. He had designed for Paco Rabanne, Perry Ellis, Giorgia Armani and Anne Klein before going to Gap, and had been nominated for a CFDA award, the industry’s equivalent of an Oscar. (And his wife, Virginia Smith, is a Vogue editor.) Soon after joining the Gap, he was dispensing styling advice on the pages of Glamour and Teen Vogue, and was covered like a celebrity by fashion blgos.


Beyond the buzz, Mr. Robinson had a difficult job: trying to figure out what Gap should be selling. After pretty much defining American basics in the '80s and '90s, the chain had floundered. Competitors like Abercrombie & Fitch and J. Crew, along with fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara, were offering sharper takes on trends.



Introducing one of his first Gap collections, Mr. Robinson said he wanted to “take the classic, iconic heritage of the company and make it relevant.” His Gap designs produced some popular items, like fitted cargo pants, reinvented jeans and military-inspired clothing, but sales did not take off.
Starting in 2005, and continuing through Mr. Robinson’s tenure, Gap’s North America stores have had annual decreases in sales at stores open at least a year, a crucial measure of retail health. In 2010, though Gap Inc.'s other units, including Banana Republic and Old Navy’s North American stores, posted positive same-store sales, the Gap unit saw a 1 percent decline.



The trend continued in January, February and March of this year, when Gap North America’s same-store sales were flat, down 1 percent and then down 9 percent, as same-store sales for retailers tracked by Thomson Retuers were up a few points in each month.


Mr. Robinson’s departure comes as Gap is overhauling its Gap North America division. About three months ago, the company dismissed the top business-side executive overseeing the Gap brand in the United States, and named a new global chief marketing officer for the Gap brand.



While media releases announcing executive changes tend to dance around a dismissal — they usually say that an executive chose to leave, often to spend more time with his family — the Gap release that hit the wires on Thursday was fairly direct.



“I’ve made the decision to make a change within our Gap Adult design team,” Pam Wallack, chief of the Gap Global Creative Center in New York,' said in the statement. While Gap looks for a successor, the head of children’s design will oversee adult clothing.



“Our leaders of the new Gap Global Creative Center are taking thenecessary steps to compete and win around the world,” Glenn Murphy, the chairman and chief executive of Gap Inc., said in the statement. Analysts said the problem on the design side seems to be twofold. The colors that Mr. Robinson seems to prefer are muted — Gap’s stores now, for instance, are filled with peaches and grays, while competitors are going for saturated jewel tones. “They were very, very neutral throughout 2010” in terms of colors, Adrienne Tennant, a retail analyst at Janney Capital Markets, said in an interview earlier this year.


“The Gap division, particularly at holiday, really resonates when there’s color and pop and vibrancy. Part of what Gap had done well is use bright colors to connect with customers’ emotions, particularly around the holiday season, and we didn’t see as much of that” recently, Ms. Tennant said.
Also, the timing of when it brings clothing has been an issue. While Gap has had moderate success with items like its 1969 jeans, other styles hit at the wrong time.



Gap introduced skinny-leg cargo pants, for instance, in early 2010. “But they were early on the trend, early in the year, and when the trend peaked they weren’t there as much,” Ms. Tennant said.



In an interview in March, Seth Farbman, the new global chief marketing officer of the Gap, acknowledged some of the problems “To rely on hit product after hit product is unreal,” he said.


“It’s hard to be in the middle, so we have our work cut out for us — to design what a middle brand really means,” he said. “This is not a five-year turnaround strategy; this is a right-now.”



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I hate to celebrate anyone's firing, but I have to admit I'm glad he's gone! The Gap needs to go back to making quality basics, their clothes lately are poorly cut and constructed and their attempts at being trendy are laughable.

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05-05-2011
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As an avid Gap customer, I found the prices to be one of the most absurd things about the brand. I guess that can be taken into consideration. I'm going to miss Patrick though .

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05-05-2011
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I remember reading about The Gap and the huge overhaul theyre doing across North America. Sales have been flailing, so this is no surprised; its just business. He'll go on other things, as he has queen annas blessing/support.

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05-05-2011
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I think it's about time that he's dismissed. These days, Gap isn't what it used to be.

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05-05-2011
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I think the problem goes beyond Patrick Robinson. My guess is that if he was given free reign the Gap would have gone a lot more 'cutting edge' or 'trendy', but Gap higher-ups were trying to please 2 different people: those who want "quality basics" and those who want cheap and on-trend pieces. Gap ultimately failed to do both.

They really need to follow J. Crew's lead in my opinion - producing a lot of basics at quite reasonable prices, and then doing more trend-lead pieces that are more expensive and more interesting.

I think Gap needs to decide who it wants to be and commit to that.

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05-05-2011
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Is any house keeping their designer?

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05-05-2011
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they can't really do J.Crew - that's Banana Republic's aim. Gap sits lower on the chain within the Gap family (Banana Republic >Gap >Old Navy).

I'm looking forward to seeing what the new styling direction will be. unfortunately, Gap is constrained by the mall crowd, so they can't go too wild, they still need the basics, but they can't step on the toes of their higher priced corporate sister brand, BR. Talk about limitations.

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05-05-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petit Lucille View Post
Is any house keeping their designer?
right? it's a horrible time to be a fashion designer

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05-05-2011
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Meg is quite right.

Gap has always had wonderful pieces but time after time, the quality has been anything but satisfactory in any sense.

I personally refused to go due to poor sales and the quality of the clothing being the same as a wet piece of paper. After a single wash, my pieces were ruined quite easily.

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05-05-2011
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I think Meg has a point, but littleathquakes is right that Banana Republic is more along JCrew's line. Madewell is closer to the Gap, or a cross between the Gap and Old Navy. I prefer both JCrew and Madewell by far. Gap stores themselves are very boring. I hate even going into them and thay has nothing to do with Patrick Robinson. Imo, both Gap and Old Navy need complete overhauls. I used to like those stores but not now. Only Banana Republic works for me in that company. And even then i would choose JCrew or Club Monaco or Zara almost everytime.

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06-05-2011
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In my opinion, BR is nothing like J.Crew. J.Crew's basics are cheaper than BR, and I think BR is much more conservative. I've found some great items at BR, but I would never describe them as trend-led. Just a more up-market, and conservative Gap. So I don't think moving in a more JCrew direction would step on BR's toes - but the comparison to Madewell is quite good.

The problem is that Madewell is young, and Gap is trying to appeal to so many demographics (despite their excellent advertising campaigns) that I don't think they would go down the Madewell route.

I think Gap has done some successful things (like the CFDA/Vogue collabs) - but as I said above, they need to decide who they are going to target, and do it well. Because right now you'll find cute skinny cargo's beside frumpy mom jeans and bizarre graphic tees alongside sweet colored cardigans and pretty, cute miniskirts.

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06-05-2011
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I agree Meg: the GAP has an identity crisis, and frankly I think Robinson is the fallguy or scapegoat, like so many other designers presently.

I meant more price range between JCrew & BR. They do, also, cater to a slightly more mature and upscale consumer than Gap. To young professionals, perhaps. JCrew, however, is more waspy and trendy than BR, which, as you pointed out, is more conservative.

Gap wants to be everything to everyone - mums, dads and their kids. And initially that worked, with the basic pocket Ts, jeans & chinos. But fashion has shifted. They maybe tried to do more trend based things with Robinson, but the stores themselves need work imo. Not just behind the scenes. Either they go back to basics or they reinvent. Right now they are somewhere in between. Even Old Navy is slightly more focused on a young consumer. The Gap is not focused at all.


Last edited by Not Plain Jane; 06-05-2011 at 12:49 AM.
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06-05-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meg View Post
The problem is that Madewell is young, and Gap is trying to appeal to so many demographics (despite their excellent advertising campaigns) that I don't think they would go down the Madewell route.
But are their advertising campaigns really excellent? I like them when I look at them through a fashion prism, I was particularly in love with the one of Sasha doing a backbend, but I associate Gap with catchy, mass market TV spots and maybe I am not watching the right shows, but I have not seen one of those lately.

My question is how did his job relate to advertising and marketing, if at all, or how was he suppose to interact with those groups? Also, I agree that Gap probably had an identity problem, and also if the quality is not there, no amount of good advertising and/or design is going to make up for that, unless the average price point is $4.99.


Last edited by agee; 06-05-2011 at 07:22 AM.
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06-05-2011
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Oh I agree - I don't think he was particularly involved in the advertising campaigns, but others can maybe clarify that. And the campaigns don't really fit with the in-store experience. I just meant on their own, the print campaigns (not talking about TV) were catchy and engaging.

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06-05-2011
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I'm glad they realized things weren't going quite right and are addressing it. I remember going in to the store a couple times over the winter and being thoroughly depressed just because all of their clothes were so dark. Even scrolling through their new summer clothes the palette is very muted. That isn't what I want or expect when I go into GAP.

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