Gap Fall-Out: After Robinson’s Exit, Experts Think Business Needs Complete Overhaul


According to a new report in WWD, most retail analysts and fashion experts think the 14.7 billion-dollar franchise needs more work than the mere act of firing VP of design, Patrick Robinson.

The consensus seems to be that the changes need to start at the ground up, with a change in direction even in terms of how the brand has been marketing itself. As one unnamed competitor told WWD:

“Anything can be turned around, but this is a huge, massive effort.…It’s not just Gap. It’s fixing Banana, Old Navy, moving start-ups, international, franchising. This is a very deep story. But at the end of the day, it’s about the chief executive,” said one competitor, pointing to Gap Inc. chairman and ceo Glenn Murphy, who has headed the retailer since August 2007.

Other sources pointed to the lack of leadership at the top in terms of people who understood how to be a true merchant -- highlighting the success of competitor brands like Target and Kohl's, where there wasn't necessarily a designer as fashion-savvy as Robinson, but that there was nevertheless strong gains. Even though Robinson apparently had his successes, insiders pointed to the inconsistency in his design, and the fact that the Gap wares weren't always reflective of what was going on in the rest of the marketplace. Ideally, a big business at Gap should have enough leadership built in to steer the ship -- including designers -- in a consistently forward-thinking direction.

As Shelda Hartwell-Hale, vice president of Directives West consulting office, told WWD: "I love Patrick as a designer ... Some seasons at Gap he was great, but there were always highs and lows.”

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