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GAP FALLING INTO ITSELF?

Prior to the Labor Day weekend, respondents to the GlobeSt.com Quick Poll appeared less than enthusiastic about the future of Gap Inc., the San Francisco-based casual-chic retailer that has been around nearly four decades. Poll results show that 59% believe Gap will close more stores than already announced, while 21% feel it will find a real estate solution and 20% think it will fall through the gap itself. Patrick Berman, senior director of retail brokerage with Cushman & Wakefield’s Tampa office, has been minding the Gap over the last several years and has these observations about the clothing chain’s future:

“Gap is going through a similar situation as Winn-Dixie from a supermarket standpoint. If you wanted discount prices you’d go to Wal-Mart, but if you wanted good service and quality produce you’d go to Whole Foods or Publix. There was no reason to go to Winn-Dixie after a while.

“Gap used to be the cool, hip, trendy place to buy clothes. Now places like Zara, the number-one clothing retailer in the world, are offering affordable chic and brand names at reasonable prices. If you want to buy affordable stuff that fits well, or decent clothes for your kids, you buy at Target. If you’re a teenager or a tween, you’re going to Abercrombie & Fitch or Forever 21.

“Gap appears to have lost its identity and has been taken over on the trendy niche end. It still has good mall locations, a strong brand and consistent quality, but it seems to have lost its way. The mix of merchandise has become somewhat standardized. It has gotten caught in the same trap as a lot of department store chains because they’re the same as they were ten years ago.

“The game isn’t over yet for Gap. It still has plenty of stores, but it’s losing ground.”

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