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WEST NYACK, NY-Gap Inc. opened its first Forth & Towne store at the Palisades Center Mall here Tuesday, to be followed by four stores in the Chicago area on Aug. 31. The new brand is an effort by the San Francisco-based retailer to capture women shoppers ages 35 and older.

Gap management and the team that designed the Forth & Towne concept explained the company’s Forth & Towne strategy during an investor webcast at the West Nyack store Tuesday, including Paul Pressler, Gap’s president and CEO. Pressler said Gap chose the Palisades Center Mall as the site of the first Forth & Towne, because of the property’s “demographics and its mix of stores, restaurants and anchors.”

Pressler indicated that the mall represented an ideal location for the new Forth & Towne concept, which is aimed at one of the most affluent segments of the clothes-buying public. Gap Inc. holds either the No. 1 or No. 2 market share per segment under the age of 35, Pressler said, “but we don’t yet have a significant share of segments over 35.”

The customers that Gap is targeting with its new format are a rapidly growing segment of the female population, earn the highest average income of any women and their clothing purchases account for about 39% of total women’s apparel expenditures, Pressler noted. “Right now they’re shopping more in department stores than in other channels,” the Gap CEO said. “We believe we can win this department store customer by providing a more targeted, edited product assortment” and a Forth & Towne design that is “inspired by the classic department store.”

Forth & Towne carries four brands tailored to its target customers: Allegory, Vocabulary, Prize and Gap Edition, which are described as “distinct styles for casual, business or dress-up needs.” The stores are designed with fitting salons featuring three-way mirrors, adjustable lighting, refreshments and “a variety of fashion accessories within reach to help style an outfit.”

Along with Pressler, Gap’s Tuesday event included remarks by Forth & Towne president Gary Muto, SVP of product design Austyn Zung and VP of merchandising Jyothi Rao. Its Aug. 31 openings in the Chicago area will be at Algonquin Commons in Algonquin, Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie and Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

Gap Inc. operates about 3,000 stores in the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Japan. Besides the new Forth & Towne, its brands include Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy.

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