Inside Banana Republic’s Bid to Regain Relevance
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BoF’s retail correspondent Cathaleen Chen joins The Debrief to discuss how the mall brand plotted a turnaround that’s starting to pay off. Background: Gap Inc. has had a hard year, accented last week by a dramatic Ye break-up following an anticlimactic retail roll-out of Yeezy Gap, which it staked its comeback on a year ago. Old Navy sales sank, and its once fast-growing sportswear label Athleta has seen sales level. But there’s been one glimmer of hope in the midst of it all: Banana Republic. The long-struggling mall brand’s sales were up 9 percent in the quarter ended July 30, helping to send Gap Inc. shares up 6 percent after what was an otherwise grim report. It seems the company is finally starting to see the payoff of the brand and product re-fashioning it started a year ago under chief executive Sandra Stangl and then-chief brand officer Ana Andjelic.    “For the first time in a long time, it's exciting, it's different — and the fact that it’s not for everybody serves an advantage for Banana, because it finally has a point of view,” said retail correspondent Cathaleen Chen.    Key Insights:  After getting lost in an amalgamation of indistinct mall brands, Banana Republic has started to redefine itself with a pointed aesthetic that doesn’t serve every consumer — reinventing its look and product offering. It launched a line “Imagined Worlds” IS THIS THE RIGHt NAME?” that nods to its heritage as a travel and safari line. Half of Banana Republic’s sales come from its off-price segment.  Best known for time spent at Restoration Hardware, Stangl has focused on improving in store experience and leaning more into the idea of BR as a lifestyle brand. Overall, the Banana Republic makeover could be a learning experience for Gap, which hasn’t yet mounted a brand turnaround as significant as this.    Additional Resources:  How Banana Republic Became a Bright Spot in Gap Inc.’s Portfolio: The mall retailer saw sales rise after swapping generic office clothes for a stronger point-of-view inspired by its safari-themed origins. The new look wasn’t for everyone — and that was the point. The Secret to Breathing New Life Into Old Brands: Banana Republic, J.Crew, Express and other mall brands are all promoting a new, more digital and fashion-forward identity in a bid to regain relevance. Follow The Debrief wherever you listen to podcasts.  
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