By Gemma Boothroyd
Reports that Gap may be closing all of its European stores come as no surprise given its undistinguishable product offering and failure to capitalize on growing demand for casualwear. Despite comfortable clothing being in demand this year as European consumers have spent more time at home, it was too late for Gap to leverage its existing product lines, with its reputation already damaged by years of lackluster ranges.
Although globally Gap managed to practically double its e-commerce business to account for nearly 50% of total sales amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this success did not translate to Europe, where second-quarter total sales ending August 2020 plummeted by 47%.
As one of America’s most iconic retailers, Gap could formerly rely on the luster of its American name to establish international prestige. But its cultural legacy no longer holds weight for European consumers, who have lost interest in Gap’s uninspiring apparel. Given that European consumers have no patriotic allegiance to shop with the brand, Gap’s inability to remain relevant has resulted in a significant decline, and it has lost the market share it had once carved out in Europe.
The shift to working from home alongside tumbling demand for occasionwear from cancelled events could have been a real opportunity for Gap, which was formerly renowned for its high-quality basics. Yet other retailers, such as Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo, are simply doing it better. By focusing on reliably timeless styles rather than short turnaround trends, Uniqlo has thrived by maintaining a clean and simple, appealing product offer. Comparatively, Gap has spread itself too thin, and even with consistent and heavy product discounting, it has been unable to capture European shoppers’ interest.
Gemma Boothroyd is apparel analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData.