According to the WSJ, interim CEO Robert Fisher at the Gap, Inc. is counting on faster decision making and less bureaucracy to turn around the struggling clothing retailer. Fisher hopes to combat high turnover in critical leadership roles by attracting and retaining creative talent. The company has become paralyzed by analysis and overly reliant on customer research and focus groups as it struggles to become competitive again. Gap has tried to be everything to everyone, offering a broad range of merchandise to its aging long-term customers (including yours truly) as well as the youth market. Meanwhile, its rivals have focused on the trendy youth market and Gap's sales have tumbled.
One wonders if Gap leadership has been paying too much attention to the style trends and too little attention to their financial trendline. Quick decisions are only as good as they data on which they are based. In times of crisis, reliable information is crucial for making difficult decisions. It's unclear how the Gap will streamline their decision making and whether or not they've got management reporting in place that answers the key strategic questions to navigate through their troubles: which market niche to serve, which merchandise to offer, which stores to close, where to cut costs. They may not have had the right information up until now, but Fisher has pulled together key data and made some tough decisions already. Namely closing the newly launched Forth and Towne brand before it had a chance to get off the ground so that Gap can focus on its core businesses: Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic.
Fisher and the incoming talent at Gap, Inc. have a tough road ahead. They will need to rethink their business over-all and realign their workforce. Decisions made over the coming months will make or break the future of the company – let's hope they can count on the data and reporting tools at their disposal.
Gap Aims to Unleash Creativity for Revival
The Wall Street Journal
March 6, 2007, pg B2