Eleven months after Gap announced its 10-year product partnership with Kanye West and his Yeezy brand, the 50-year-old casual apparel retailer is seeing something it never has before: frenzied consumers.
In less than an hour of posting its $200 unisex, sky-blue “Round Jacket” online for pre-orders, enthusiastic customers bought up every last one of them and not because they’re made of recycled nylon.
As much as an instant sellout is frustrating for customers, it is the kind of buzz-worthy occurrence and traffic-driving event that most retailers dream of but never participate in, including Gap, which is in the process of closing physical stores, re-imagining its mall-based footprint and now sees 70 percent of its sales come through its Old Navy and Athleta divisions.
So for a single jacket to create such a surge in traffic from young consumers, many of whom probably don’t browse Gap or its website, is nothing short of a game changer, assuming the retailer properly manages its new-found notoriety.
Just to see the first product drop in the new line demands a bit of consumer commitment as it requires shoppers to enter their name, email, phone number and sizing information to be entered into a waiting cue presumably for bandwidth to open up and not crash their servers. This “velvet rope” of sorts not only serves to heighten the exclusivity of what is being offered, but will give Gap’s data analytics department a treasure trove of potential new customers to target.
To be sure, the debut Gap-Yeezy launch is well-timed and coincides nicely with the present surge in shopping, even though customers won’t get to wear their Round Jackets until the fall.
It also serves as a stark juxtaposition coming less than two weeks after the company posted its first-quarter earnings in which Gap CFO Katrina O’Connell spent most of her time telling investors about store closures and the “standout performance” at its Old Navy and Athleta brands, and the shift to digital, while casting far less attention on the namesake, flagship brand.
“[Gap North America] has become more digitally led and is realizing the margin benefit of closing unprofitable stores while also reinvigorating the brand with great creative and product execution,” O’Connell said, noting the Gap brand saw comp sales rise 9 percent while Old Navy and Athleta brands grew sales 27 and 56 percent respectively.
Penchant For Partnerships
While the Yeezy deal is purported to be a billion-dollar franchise and include additional product drops in the weeks and months to come, it also reflects the retailer’s newfound interest in partnerships.
Last month, for example, Gap and Walmart signed a pact to develop an exclusive new line of bedding, linens, towels and furnishings under the “Gap Home” banner that will be available in stores later this month.
“Walmart is a global leader in the home space with extensive digital reach and distribution, and this partnership enables Gap to introduce a new category in a smart, scalable way,” said Mark Breitbard, president and CEO of Gap brand. “Gap Home at Walmart opens a new door for Gap as a lifestyle brand delivering timeless American style in all new ways. We are excited for this growth opportunity, enabling even more customers to fall in love with Gap.”
And now, two weeks later, Gap has unveiled another reason for customers to fall in love with it, and it appears to be working.