Gap Background

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  • Topic: Millard Drexler, Gap, Banana Republic
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  • Published : April 14, 2013
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The Gap, Inc. History

Address:
2 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94105
U.S.A.

Telephone: (650) 952-4400
Fax: (415) 427-2553

Website: www.gap.com Public Company
Incorporated: 1969 as The Gap Stores, Inc.
Employees: 169,000
Sales: $14.4 billion (2003)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: GPS
NAIC: 448140 Family Clothing Stores
Company Perspectives:

At Gap, Inc. we never stop moving. It takes thousands of passionate, dedicated and talented employees around the world to deliver the merchandise and shopping experience our customers expect and deserve. From color to concept, it all begins with inspiration--whether it's people-watching on the streets of Tokyo, a flash from a dream, or a visit to a local art gallery.

Key Dates:

1969:
Don and Doris Fisher open their first store in San Francisco, California. 1976:
The company offers 1.2 million shares to the public.
1983:
Millard Drexler is named president; the firm acquires Banana Republic. 1986:
The first GapKids store is opened.
1987:
The first international store is opened in London.
1990:
BabyGap is launched.
1994:
The Old Navy brand is established.
1997:
The Gap Web site debuts.
2002:
Drexler retires; Paul Pressler is named CEO.
Company History:

Founded as a single store by Donald G. Fisher and wife Doris, The Gap, Inc. has evolved into a major retail company with well known brands, including its namesake, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. The firm sells a variety of casual-style and urbane chic clothing to men, women, and children in over 4,250 stores across the United States and in Canada, France, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The Gap flourished through the 1980s and 1990s under the leadership of Millard "Mickey" Drexler but has battled tough times in the early years of the new century. Drexler retired in 2002, and Paul Pressler was named CEO while Fisher remained chairman.

Capitalizing on the Generation Gap: 1969-75

Donald Fisher was not of the generation to whom The Gap owes its popularity. A member of a family that made its home in California for generations, Fisher was 40 years old and a successful real estate developer in 1969 when he took note of a new trend among the city's increasingly disaffected youth. Blue jeans, for years made chiefly by Levi Strauss & Co. for laborers and outdoorsmen, were suddenly becoming a part of the counterculture's standard costume. Durable, cheap, comfortable, and acceptably offbeat, jeans were the perfect uniform for a generation of young people anxious to demonstrate its antipathy to corporate America.

Fisher was said to have conceived of The Gap when he was unable to find the right size of Levi's in a department store in Sacramento, California. He realized that jeans had become more popular than current merchandising outlets could accommodate, and like hamburgers, stereo equipment, and gasoline, they could be sold through a chain of small stores devoted solely to that product. With the help of his wife, Doris, Fisher opened a shop near San Francisco State University in one of his own buildings, offering a combination of records and jeans. Their intention was to attract jeans customers by means of the records, but at first no one noticed the jeans, and Fisher was driven close to bankruptcy. In desperation, he placed ads in local newspapers announcing the sale of "four tons" of jeans at rock-bottom prices, and the clothes were soon gone. To emphasize the youthful ambiance of his new store, Fisher named it The Gap, an allusion to a then hot topic, the Generation Gap.

When Fisher incorporated his business as The Gap Stores, Inc., it was an immediate success. Although the Fishers had no experience in retailing, their stores' combination of jeans, low prices, and wide selection proved irresistible to the huge market of 14- to 25-year-olds. Fisher added new outlets in San Francisco and was soon enjoying the benefits of chain store merchandising: centralized...
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