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Would You Miss the Gap?

In their book MAVERICKS AT WORK, Bill Taylor & Polly LaBarre include a very powerful question every company must ask itself. And given its sluggish sales and uncertain future, it’s a question Gap must answer today to better prepare for tomorrow. That question is …

“If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would really miss you and why?”

Bill & Polly go on to further explain why people might miss a company …

“Because it’s providing a product or service so unique it can’t be provided nearly as well by any other company. Because it’s created a workplace so dynamic that most employees would be hard-pressed to find a similar environment somewhere else. Because it has forged a uniquely emotional connection with customers that other companies can’t replicate.”

So … if the Gap (and/or its Old Navy & Banana Republic stores) went out of business tomorrow, would any of us care? Does the Gap provide such a unique product and customer experience that we would be saddened if it didn’t exist? Does the Gap treat its employees so astonishingly well that those workers would not be able to find another employer to treat them as well? Does the Gap forge such unfailing emotional connections with its customers that they would fail to find another retailer that could forge just as strong an emotional bond?

In thinking about the Gap, I answered ‘NO’ to each of those questions. The Gap doesn’t provide anything unique. The Gap isn’t ranked as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. And, the Gap hasn’t forged unbreakable emotional connections with its customers. I wouldn’t miss the Gap if it went out of business tomorrow.

Now … try asking those same questions about the company you work for. How does your company rank? Can you answer YES with conviction? Or, do you have to concede by answering NO? (Really, you should ask those questions of and about your company.)

14 Comments

  • ChicagoDave says:

    I ALREADY miss the Gap. They lost it years ago and can’t seem to find it.

  • Good point Dave. Gap is already an afterthought.

  • Lewis Green says:

    John,Great post and right on target. I remember discussing and communicating the importance of values at Starbucks and using the same criteria: Would we be different if any of these values disappeared and would that make a difference in the experience we provide?Every business needs to be built on their core values and then every year during the strategic planning process ask themselves: Would we be missed if we went away?One more note: Every department needs to ask themselves the same question? And if they wouldn’t be missed, they should either change what they are doing and how they are doing it or be eliminated.

  • C Montgomery says:

    For me, the Gap is dead, but I would be lost without Banana Republic.

  • I can remember when the gap sold records and tapes and Levis seconds and only had one store.I like the Generic quality of what they sell. If you close your eyes and imagine “pants” or “shirt” or “sweater” it’s probably something like what you could buy at the gap. It’s a great place to shop if you hate shopping and don’t want to think about clothes, and usually if you find something you like there you can come back next year and find it again. No ugly logos or *branding*.It’s kind of hard to find clothing as anonymous as the gap.J Crew used to be like that before they totally screwed it up.I kind of miss the pre gap banana republic stores when they sold surplus Belgian army uniforms.

  • JB says:

    I agree w/ ChicagoDave. I missed them when the quality and style at the Gap started being very Old Navy (CHEAP and too young and too obviously branded). You used to be able to get all your clean basics there and know they’d last forever (I still wear an early 1990s long sleeve ribbed shirt from the Gap that hasn’t lost its shape or discolored). Now they are cheaply made and dyed, and overpriced more often than not.

  • Alex Draven says:

    I’m an employee at the Gap. And losing my job at the Gap would hurt. But I would not miss the Gap, Old Navy, or Banana Republic if they went out of business. The upper Management treats their employees like crap. They make little children from other countries work for free or pay them little as possible. I know I’ve seen little foot prints on the boxes. I wouldn’t care if all the people in the world stopped buying anything from Gap. They don’t care about nobody but the how much money they can make off the costumer. And their cheap clothes at that. In the summer time all the employees either pass out or get sick from the heat, because the Gap’s too cheap to turn on the air. I don’t buy a thing at the Gap. The worse thing they did was advertise gay pride month. When some of us christians tried to ware a shirt with a cross on it they made us turn the shirt inside out, cause they felt that it wasn’t suitable ware. My opinion let them go out of business.

  • Vickie P. says:

    I agree totally with Alex. It gets unbearably hot in the warehouse. Not only in the summer but the winter, too. And I’ve seen people wear certain things on their shirts and had to turn them inside out but yet they’re proud of gays. Come on, people!! Gap sucks. That’s all there is to it. And I will be sooo glad when Dan G. is gone!! He’s such a #$%&! We used to have 2 20 min. breaks but now we have 15 min. Soon it will be down to 5 min. Screw Gap!!

  • andrew says:

    Try adding a non-traditional retailer to your “Would You Miss?” experiment… See if there’s an emotional connection with non-publicly-traded companies and/or family-owned businesses… for instance, Half Price Books (used merch seller) based out of Dallas

  • bob says:

    I couldn’t miss any corporation that sells sweatshop-made goods.

  • JR says:

    Gap has been an irrelvant brand since the late 1990’s when Abercrombie & Fitch came in and stole the large college kid segment (a segment with lots of discretionary income from getting those first credit cards) away from them… and not that this is about Abercrombie, but I would be fine if they went away too… that is a brand that has just become a cheesy cliche for lifestyle branding. As for other divisions of the Gap… if OLD NAVY went away I would do a dance for joy… I worked there as a Manager for about a year and it sucked… besides… H&M has kicked their asses in the cheap & chic category… as for Banana Republic, that store has become very predictable… I would rather go to Reiss instead and just spend the money to get something that is classic yet stylish.

  • Gideon says:

    I used to be an employee of gap and eventhough we had a great crew the company was not one I took pride in working for. The styles never change…year after year they push the same shirt back onto us just in different colors. Male polos are made with cheap synthetic fibers that dont allow the fabric to breathe easy of feel comfortable for that matter. Denims always seem to rip around the pockets after 6 months of normal wear. Also whenever we didnt meet our gap card application quota we were always sent through the mall to beg other businesses to trade applications. I cant speak for all gap stores but the one good thing I liked about our store is we were very good about customer service.

  • A. says:

    I am a college student who works part-time as a sales associate at Gap. If my store was to close, I would miss working with the other sales associates, some of whom have become my close friends. But the management sucks for the most part. They are always hiring new employees and don’t seem to care about keeping the good ones they’ve had for awhile; raises and promotions are nonexistent for the majority of employees. They’re more likely to bring people in from the outside for both sales associate and management positions. Also, the product has been the same for much of the three years I’ve been there – same polos, V-neck tees, cardigans, etc. I know Gap is about basics but there is hardly any variety from year to year. It’s hard for me to sell the product effectively because honestly it’s boring and people have seen it all before.

  • Lauren says:

    Please…the GAP never existed to me. Just like Old Navy. They’re both dull.