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California, Here Gap Comes

Bracha Arnold
November 8, 2023
California, Here Gap Comes

Clothing retailer Gap Inc., known for its laid-back styles and denim collections, is an American icon. The company was founded in 1969 and has since grown to include four apparel retailers – Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Old Navy, each with its own aesthetic and price point. 

And while the company, which recently brought on a new CEO, has stores all over the U.S., recent foot traffic reveals that one state – California – is especially popular among Gap shoppers. We dive into the foot traffic to see what might be driving visits to the four chains.

Overall, How Is Gap Doing?

The past few years have been challenging for many retail segments, as COVID-19 lockdowns gave way to persistent inflation. Full-priced clothing retailers have felt the effects as some consumers choose to spruce up their wardrobes at an off-price apparel retailer or thrift shop – and Gap banners have not been immune. 

Average monthly visits to all four Gap-owned chains were below last year’s numbers in all months analyzed. Still, the Gap brands collectively outperformed apparel retailers nationwide on a year-over-year (YoY) basis, with October 2023 visits only 10.2% lower than they had been last year. In comparison, apparel retailers (excluding off-price chains) experienced a visit decline of 19.7% compared to the same period in 2022.

Golden State Retailers

The Gap company’s visit trends look even more promising when zooming in on California, the  state has the largest number of Gap and Banana Republic stores in the country.

In September 2023, a period when many consumers were prioritizing essentials over discretionary spending, visits to Gap stores in California recorded an impressive 7.0% increase in visits YoY, while nationwide visits were down 8.8% lower. During the same month, the YoY visit gap for Banana Republic in California was around a quarter of the Banana Republic visit gap nationwide. The October YoY visit gaps for both chains were also significantly narrower in California when compared to the nationwide average.

Signs of Successful Rightsizing

The Gap company has closed hundreds of Gap and Banana Republic stores over the past few years – including in California – so the significant YoY visit gaps are also due to the now smaller number Gap and Banana Republic stores. And looking at the average monthly visits per venue YoY – how many monthly visits does each existing store receive on average – further highlights the strength of the company’s California sites.

Between June and October, average monthly visits per venue for Gap and Banana Republic in California stayed at or above last year’s level – another testament to the Gap California comeback already underway.

Athleta: Expansion and Growth

While Gap Inc. is streamlining the store fleets of some of its brands, the company is expanding its most profitable brand, Athleta. And while the larger store fleet is bringing an increase in visits nationwide – Athleta’s foot traffic growth in California is particularly impressive, with YoY visits for Athleta California significantly outpacing the brand’s nationwide average. 

Something Old, Something Navy

Old Navy was founded in 1994 as a lower-cost alternative to Gap. The chain has seen its foot traffic trailing behind last years’ for the most part as consumers tightened their budgets – but like the other brands in Gap Inc.’s portfolio, California Old Navy generally outperformed the nationwide average on a YoY visit basis. 

Still, the differences between Old Navy California and nationwide performance were not as pronounced as for the other three Gap brands – perhaps due to California’s unique demographics. California is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, so Old Navy – known for its affordability – might not be quite as attractive to the Golden State’s higher-income shoppers.

Final Takeaways

Gap Inc. offers something for everyone across its portfolio of brands. And though the past few years have proven challenging to retailers, the relative stability of the brand in California suggests that the chain has a playbook to reference when considering its next steps.

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