If not creative directors or data, what can make Gap’s fashions sell?
Some may see a good creative director as a necessity for fashionable apparel design, but Gap CEO Art Peck does not. It’s a sentiment he doubled down on when calling them “false messiahs” in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
Peck’s renewed expression of skepticism about the creative director role, as Quartz reported, comes in the wake of a few moves. When Mr. Peck came on as CEO in early 2015, he eliminated the creative director position from Gap. He has subsequently made attempts to decentralize the design process, outsourcing design to vendors and pursuing a data-driven approach to meeting customer desires rather than relying on a single creative director’s vision. But apparently these moves have yet to make Gap fashionable again.
Mr. Peck’s “false messiah” claim is not the first provocative statement he has made to the press about the state of the fashion industry. In September, he told analysts that there were no compelling fashion trends driving the industry. In a discussion by the RetailWire BrainTrust, many panelists rebuffed the claim as inadequate for explaining Gap’s shortcomings.
While data-driven design does not seem to have pulled Gap out of the doldrums, some fast fashion retailers like Zara, as Quartz pointed out, are thriving based on such strategies.
Zara designers receive data each day on what sells and what doesn’t, according to a Bloomberg report. The designers base products on that data, along with thousands of customer comments they receive. The new designs hit the shelves within a few weeks.
The use of trend data and the speed-to-market it enables may look like Zara’s special sauce. A RetailWire article, however, noted that some fast fashion retailers, like Forever 21, Uniqlo and H&M, are failing to hit the same numbers as Zara these days, despite speedy supply chains.
Whatever has allowed Zara to thrive in this environment, Gap could desperately use some of it.
In November, Gap announced the impending closure of 65 stores, increasing the number from its previous forecast of 50. At the end of October, the company announced its seventh straight quarter of declining sales.
- As Gap Struggles, its Analytical CEO Prizes Data Over Design – The Wall Street Journal
- Gap’s CEO Art Peck Missed The Brand’s Biggest Problem When He Called Creative Directors False Messiahs – Quartz
- Is a trendless fashion industry killing Gap’s business? – RetailWire
- Zara’s Recipe for Success: More Data, Fewer Bosses – Bloomberg
- Gap Shares Flop After Chain Says It Will Close More Stores Than Expected – Fortune
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why has a data-driven, decentralized strategy for apparel design not worked for Gap thus far? Could Gap benefit from a good creative director? What is missing from the way Gap selects its assortment?