Can GAP close the fashion divide in a new marketplace?

The brand is seen as out of date and out of step with China’s retail trends and consumers.

Photo by Kuang Da

Photo by Kuang Da

By CHEN Qirui


In August 2022, fashion retailer GAP closed stores in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Last year, GAP opened 10 new stores in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. 

In November, Baozun, an e-commerce business, bought GAP China for US$40 million (290 million yuan) and began a transformation, with localization the priority. GAP now has a local design team.

Before the acquisition, Baozun already handled GAP's e-commerce in China. One of Baozun's new strategies is helping GAP stores return to prime sites, reversing the trend for smaller stores. When GAP first entered the Chinese market, two- or three-story stores were common.

Compared to other clothing stores, GAP stores can only be described as ordinary, and home to an "outdated" brand that has stood still while others have moved forward. GAP has tried to collaborate with Chinese designers and celebrities, but it’s not easy to rebrand a company’s image which has been built up for years.

For Baozun, which has primarily been engaged in agency operations in the past, managing a brand is an entirely new endeavor. But from the measures taken since the acquisition, Baozun clearly understands where the pain points of the brand lie. 

Any brand's transformation takes time, but it must make the market notice that the transformation is moving clearly in a certain direction. If it fails to do so in the early stage, it will be even more challenging to promote the transformation later on.