The Gap: Inside America's Favorite Stores

Few retail stores are more iconic than the Gap.

In 1969, the Gap was a single store in San Francisco trying to sell denim. Now the company has more than 1,000 stores across the United States.

To attract customers and boost sales, the Gap begins by concentrating on its front-display window, Marka Hansen, president of the Gap brand at the company's flagship in San Francisco, said.

VIDEO: Bianna Golodryga explains the success of the iconic brand.
Inside the Gap

"As you're walking by, I hope when you see this big bold, overt marketing, you say, 'Wow what's that," Hansen said.

The Gap is known for its denim and it ran 1,000 focus groups in order to choose the new fits and fabrics.

The store is now focusing on selling its newly designed premium jeans, and Hansen said, all 10 miles of Gap windows nationwide are dedicated to doing just that.

"Denim is the heart and soul of this brand. Denim is our birthright," Hansen said. "When you look around, you look at what people wear, people wear denim all the time."

The new premium jeans are catching on with the public, Hansen said. After several years trying to find its way in a difficult retail environment, the Gap posted a profit last quarter.

"The Gap has really struggled for the past few years," retail analyst Lori Wachs said. "But we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel."

Men and women age 25 to 35 are Gap's core customers, with 28-year-olds being the prime target.

Hansen said Gap redesigned its stores to make it easier for those customers to save time shopping.

"You're looking at this really clean beautiful well-organized box, being easy to navigate, easy to shop," Hansen said.

Attracting Men and Women Customers to the Gap

To attract female shoppers, the store placed the jeans closer to the fitting rooms, where women want them.

The Gap also places all its jeans on a long skinny table in the open because customers who touch are more likely to buy.

But men want different things when they shop, Hansen said.

"The guy needs to have a straightforward experience and he's very literal," Hansen said.

The Difference Between Attracting Men and Women Customers to the Gap

So the Gap takes advantage of mannequins to suggest outfits for men, because the store's research shows that many men buy clothing without trying it on.

The name of the jean also plays a role for men. Because they do not like taking fashion risks, Hansen said, the "Standard" jean is the best-seller.

Additionally, men usually look for only two kinds of jeans, a pair for work and a pair for "date night," while women can have up to 20 different pairs of jeans rotating through their wardrobe.

Indeed, men and women try on jeans differently, Hansen said. Women look at their butts first while most men just crouch in the jeans to see if they fit.

But perhaps the biggest secret to the Gap's success is its unique way of displaying clothes.

In the early 1980s, the Gap became the first major retailer to show clothes folded on tables, not hangers, to show people the colors.

The secret? A special Gap folding board.

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