Gap Goes Forth & Towne

Discussion
Aug 24, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Forth & Towne, Gap Inc.’s highly anticipated retail concept, is opening for business in the New York City suburb of West Nyack at the Palisades Center mall.

The 8,000-square-foot unit will sell apparel targeted to women 35 and up who have, USA Today reports, been “turned off by traditional department
stores.”

The new store is the first of five planned for opening this year. Four more are scheduled to open for business in the Chicago area. Gap plans five
more Forth & Towne store openings next year and 20 in 2007.

The new concept will break stores out into distinct areas with specific groups of the 35+ female demographic targeted in each section.

Christine Chen, analyst at Pacific Growth Equities, described the sections to USA Today:

“The ‘Allegory’ section will offer tailored and conservative apparel suited for the office, in a direct shot at Talbots. Artsy dressers will find
knits and pants with prints in the ‘Vocabulary’ part of the store. The ‘Prize’ portion will contain clothes for the “feminine and flirtatious.” Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Gap store
without the turtlenecks and “casual American style” clothes in the ‘Gap Edition’ part of the store.”

Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Consulting Group, sees the Forth & Towne concept as a better late than never move by Gap Inc. “What
the Gap is doing is not only what it must be doing, but what it should have done a long time ago,” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: Is there a market need for a specialty store that caters to women 35+? Is there a large segment of women in this age group that
has been “turned off by traditional department stores” as is suggested by Gap’s development of the Forth & Towne concept?

George Anderson – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Gap Goes Forth & Towne"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

The competition isn’t just department stores; it’s specialty stores, the Internet, catalogs, and mass merchants. It’s also the customers’ own closets, since people slow down clothing purchases when what’s offered isn’t much more exciting than what they have already.

Let’s see if the fashion/price execution appears compelling, not just for the store opening, but a year and two years from now.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 6 months ago

Department stores’ woes are well documented and 35+s are not shopping them for a variety of reasons. They are not frequenting the malls (which have lost their perceived convenience), and the dept. stores lack newness and unique products. Forth & Towne may be better suited for “off the mall,” quality downtown, village, and lifestyle center locations. It will succeed or fail based on how well its merchandise connects with target customers and not on the location of and the number of mirrors in its dressing rooms. Design features and store experience contribute to and are necessary to success but only serve to support the presentation of the “right” goods. Once again, it’s about the merchandise!!

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

For this age group, the “traditional department store” is their mother’s store. And just as we men didn’t want to drive “our father’s Oldsmobile,” neither do these women want to shop at “their mother’s store.” So is Forth and Towne on trend? We think so. Will it save the Gap from the fate of the Oldsmobile? We’ll see.

Georganne Bender
Guest
Georganne Bender
15 years 6 months ago
As part of our research, we hold numerous consumer focus groups each year, and many have focused on Baby Boomer women. I don’t think I have to tell you that they are not too happy with the clothing options they’ve been offered over the past few years. But today I am going to speak for myself, because I am the customer that Forth & Towne is trying to attract. Apparently, most designers think that the average Baby Boomer woman is 6′ tall, weighs 80 pounds, and enjoys wearing the same style clothing that her daughters like to wear. I, however, am not this customer. I want to be able to find clothing as easily as my male business partner. I, too, want stylish garments in fine fabrics. Lately, my suit choices have been black polyester or St. John Knits. And frankly, St. John Knits have gotten a just a little too stuffy for me. Last fall, I had a lot of luck at Ann Taylor, but so far this year they are back to dressing… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

I think falling back on department store bashing doesn’t tell the full story. After all, J.C. Penney’s assortments in women’s have improved tremendously. They’ve proved that it can be done. I would say that women’s specialty stores have let this customer down as much or more. How many times have I walked by an Ann Taylor or Talbot’s lately and just said ewwww without going in, usually because of some ill-conceived color story that they decided must be interpreted throughout the store (sea green is a recent, vivid memory)? Specialty stores (with a few exceptions such as Chico’s and Anthropologie) should receive the harshest criticism since it is their “job” to fill that niche perfectly and most have not emerged as consistent department store alternatives.

Tess Parker
Guest
Tess Parker
15 years 6 months ago
I am 29 and work in a professional office and continue to say “UGH” when it comes to shopping for a new wardrobe. I can buy, buy, buy for my 7-year-old daughter, but I can’t find A THING for myself! Everything out there is way too revealing for work (or even going out) attire, or way too old looking to make me feel comfortable wearing it. I work in an office with quite a few women over 50 and they all talk about shopping department stores or at Christopher Banks . . . I went into that store and the sales people looked at me as if I was lost . . . and after I saw all the matching pant and sweater sets, I realized, in fact, I was. I have resolved to wearing traditional black pants and a collared shirt, pretty boring, but there’s nothing else age appropriate out there for me or our age group. I am excited about checking out the new Forth & Towne stores. They sound like paradise!
Lilliane LeBel
Guest
Lilliane LeBel
15 years 6 months ago

We have been doing consumer research on women’s apparel for more than 10 years, and in the past few years we have heard nothing but laments over the fact that there is nothing out there for women. This is one of the reasons that Chico’s has done so well. They’re stylish, affordable, and the clothes are appropriate for most any occasion, including work.

There are few women’s apparel marketers who have the right merchandise for this market. But as someone else mentioned above, it will all come down to having the right merchandise. Hopefully, Gap has found the right mix of quality, value, and style to be successful.

Tatia Griffin
Guest
Tatia Griffin
15 years 6 months ago

This age of women started shopping at Express and Gap – more hip and in the budget than department stores. Then they became professionals and where to shop? Gap and Express don’t cut it anymore. Department stores are overwhelming with selection but what is in style? Hard to tell in a sea of shirts, pants and skirts. Smaller selection, easy shopping environment with age appropriate clothing………..what could be better?

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
Different country, similar problem. Most of my friends have problems finding clothes that they like and enjoy wearing. When they need something for a particular occasion (several are at the age where their children are getting married but not in formal environments so “day dresses” that can be worn on other occasions as well are the norm), they can spend far more time shopping than they would like. Anecdotally, I think many 35+ women in the UK are buying supermarket clothing ranges if they are part time workers or full time mothers and much more expensive designer type outfits if they are well paid career women. For more casual wear, catalogues and clothes parties often fill the bill although the jeans/slacks and sweater/Tshirt uniform they wore when they were younger continues to suit many for a very long time. My reaction to Forth & Towne isn’t particularly favourable, though, based on the fact that it was allegedly described by Gap executives as a destination for all women over 35: working women, soccer moms, grandmothers, suburbanites… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago

First, Wal-Mart should take note of Gap’s new store, and what it took to develop the concept, store design, research of audience, and building the right image/advertising effort!

Hmmmmmmmmm… Gap is after the younger Talbot shopper, and disgruntled department store shopper.

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