More bad news for Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and J. Crew

Gap instagram
Is Gap doomed? Instagram/Gap

More bad news for traditional retailers.

Fewer young people are shopping at traditional retailers usually found in malls, Thomas Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Instead, Lee notes, teens and young adults are turning to buying their clothing online.

“I haven’t been at a Gap for at least a decade,” 26-year-old Laura Chau said to Lee. “I buy my clothes online. It takes too long to go to the mall.”

People know that they can find the same clothing online that they can find in stores — so why bother trekking out to malls?

“When you think about the product, people are comfortable ordering it online,” Mark Ghermezian of Triple Five Group, a real estate company behind North America’s largest malls, said to the Chronicle. “When you go into a Gap store, you’ll find clothing you can find on”

If these brands want to survive, they will have to make sure they adapt to e-commerce.

“Women’s ready-to-wear apparel has been the lifeblood of the apparel retail business forever,” former Gap exec David Zoba said to the Chronicle. “They are for the most part struggling and eventually have to embrace e-commerce.”
(Fortunately for Gap, its online denim sales remain strong.)

It’s no secret that traditional retailers like Gap, Abercrombie, and J. Crew have faced many struggles over the years, including the rise of fast fashion behemoths like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21.

But despite valiant efforts to turn their individual brands around or perhaps speed up their supply chains to keep up with stores like Zara, the slow but sure erosion of malls remains an ominous threat to their turnaround plans.

More than two dozen malls have shut down in the last four years, and another 60 malls are on the brink of death, The New York Times reported earlier this year, citing Green Street Advisors, a real-estate analytics firm.

“Teen retailers … are all a disaster, and these middle-level malls are killing them,” Davidowitz said.

Photos of dead malls serve as relics, commemorating a bygone era in the retail industry.

Dead mall in ruins
The Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio is in ruins. Johnny Joo

There’s one bright spot for malls — technology-focused stores, like Apple, the Wall Street Journal noted. But that doesn’t help the plight of apparel retailers.

One expert believes that retailers typically found in malls — like Gap and Abercrombie — would be better off if they had standalone stores, rather than units in malls.

“These retailers are definitely at a major disadvantage,” Carol Spieckerman, president of retail consulting firm Newmarketbuilders, said to the Chronicle. “They would have a better chance at survival if they had separate, individual locations.”

Ashley Lutz contributed to this report.

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