The chain is eliminating the role of “creative director” for the Gap brand. Incoming CEO Art Peck is coming in with a bang, after critics described Gap’s lineup as “dull and uninspiring.”
Gap’s incoming CEO Art Peck is coming in with a bang: Last week, the chain announced plans to shut down Piperlime, and this week, it’s getting rid of its namesake brand’s creative director, Rebekka Bay.
The retail chain said it’s appointing executive Scott Key as the head of customer experience at Gap and eliminating Bay’s creative director role, resulting in her immediate departure. Key will oversee a freshly combined e-commerce and marketing division that’s “charged with driving a powerful connection across these critical customer touch-points globally,” according to a statement released today.
Bay was the subject of a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story last year titled “Can Rebekka Bay Fix The Gap?” The executive, best known for creating H&M’s minimalist COS line, joined Gap in late 2012 to bring back the namesake chain’s magic, so to speak. The Gap brand, once the uniform of America, had lost much of its luster, and Bay sought to return it to its roots.
But her efforts, combined with a generally tough retail environment, haven’t seemed to pay off. The Gap brand fared much worse than Banana Republic and Old Navy last year, with comparable sales sliding for eight straight months. The company’s “Dress Normal” campaign, a play on normcore, didn’t appear to resonate with consumers last fall, and Bay’s designs were criticized by analysts for being flat and unexciting.
“We believe designer Rebekka Bay’s team has so far been unable to inject the assortment with the type of excitement that incites customers to buy,” Sterne Agee analyst Ike Boruchow wrote in an October note. “Most items convey the sense that one might already own them: plaid, florals, and denim washes that indeed seem too normal.”
Jennifer Davis, an analyst at Buckingham Research Group, said she is “not surprised” by Bay’s departure after the sales declines, deeming the merchandise “dull and uninspiring.”
“Additionally, we believe that Bay’s departure indicates that the upcoming spring floorset is also lackluster,” she said in a note today.
Peck, previously the company’s “digital guy,” will officially start as Gap’s CEO on Feb. 1.
Appointing Key as the head of customer experience while eliminating the Gap’s creative director role seems in line with his formidable task of reshaping a global, nearly 3,600-store chain for the 21st century.
Gap owns Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and Intermix. The company announced Friday that it would shut down Piperlime to focus on its five flagship brands, which Wall Street analysts also viewed as a Peck-driven decision.