Friday, May 22, 2015

Marissa Webb's First Designs for Banana Republic Aren't Hitting the Mark With Shoppers

Marissa Webb's First Designs for Banana Republic Aren't Hitting the Mark With Shoppers:

From Banana Republic's New York Fashion Week presentation in February. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images
From Banana Republic's New York Fashion Week presentation in February. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Earlier this month, Gap Inc. reported some disappointing sales figures for April, the same month that Marissa Webb's first collection for Banana Republic hit stores. Sales at Banana Republic had slumped 15 percent, although execs partly chalked that up to the early timing of Easter this year.

On Thursday, Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck fleshed out the reasons why Banana Republic isn't hitting the mark with shoppers. Peck says that while Webb has done a good job of beginning to establish some fashion credibility for the brand — she's started holding Banana Republic presentations at New York Fashion Week, for instance — that hasn't translated into commercial success yet. And in some ways, the desire to push Banana into slightly more fashion-forward territory can be at odds with appealing to the mass market. Webb's first collection is heavy on black and white; Peck says it needed more colors and prints.

For the first quarter, which ended May 2, Banana Republic's sales were down 8 percent to $621 million. Gap's sales were down 10 percent, totaling $1.3 billion.

It takes time for a designer to establish a new creative direction for a brand, so it's unsurprising that Webb's collection wouldn't be a hit right out of the gate, though the 15 percent drop in sales the same month she arrived doesn't exactly bode well. Her collection for fall 2015, presented at Fashion Week in February, does seem to lean more toward the colorful — if in a way that's very, very similar to J.Crew's well-established aesthetic. (Webb was formerly the head of womenswear design for J.Crew.) Fingers crossed that it wins out with shoppers.

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