It's Not Rocket Science

“Sales remain anemic, and Gap needs to get people excited about its clothes again even as consumers pull back and the competition heats up. The man largely responsible for making that happen is design chief Patrick Robinson... Since his appointment 14 months ago, Robinson, 41, has pushed Gap to reconnect with its roots: classic American apparel with a modern twist...

“When Gary Muto, who oversees adult apparel for Gap, opened Robinson's portfolio, he saw what he was looking for: the ability to create a cohesive look for everything from belt buckles to blouses, a skill Gap had lost in recent years. ‘If you look at his work,’ says Muto, ‘there is a consistent handwriting and point of view.’ Beyond bringing clarity to the brand, Gap's aim is to allow shoppers to mix and match garments and come up with different looks that make them feel individual. The hope, of course, is that Jane or Joe Consumer will buy several items per visit.

“Beyond that, Robinson had a pretty good idea of what ailed Gap. It was targeting too young a customer (18- to 24-year-olds), stocking poor quality clothes, and imitating Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara, which have transformed the industry with their focus on fast fashion -- rapid-fire mini-trends. ‘It wasn't being Gap,’ says Robinson, who was determined to get off the trend treadmill and revive the signature classics that he wore growing up in California...

“Gap, under former Disney executive Paul Pressler, relied heavily on focus groups and spent little time in the stores. Early on, Gap North American President Marka Hansen encouraged Robinson to have breakfast with store managers... ‘It was eye-opening,’ says Robinson of the meeting with store managers. ‘They are the only people who don't have a motive except to sell product. I've said to every designer, ‘Get into the stores and talk to the salespeople’.’”

(“A Fashion Guy Gets Gap Back To Basics; Charged with reviving the ailing brand, Patrick Robinson is putting a modern spin on classics.” Jane Porter. Business Week: August 18, 2008. pg. 56)

IT CERTAINLY DOESN'T TAKE A GENIUS to know who they are, what they do best, who they serve, and what not to do.

Focus on the primary questions: Who are we? Why? What is our core? What makes us distinctive? What are we good at that others will value? What do our workers see? And, how does our customer feel?

And remember, imitation may be flattering, but it surely makes for poor strategy.

That's it.

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