Late last month, Gap announced that creative director Rebekka Bay would be leaving the company and that it would be eliminating the role of creative director entirely. The move was a disappointing — Bay did great things in her previous role at Cos and gave us high hopes for a turnaround at Gap — but not surprising. It had to replace her design leadership in some capacity, though, and on the company's fourth quarter earnings call on Thursday afternoon, Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck gave the name of her replacement: Wendi Goldman.
As promised, Goldman isn't a creative director. Rather, her title is Executive Vice President, Gap Product Design and Development. Sounds corporate, no? In a statement, Jeff Kirwan, Global President of Gap brand describes her as "a commercially-driven, customer-focused leader with deep fashion and apparel experience." She'll be overseeing Gap's women's and men's businesses, as well as GapKids, babyGap, GapFit, GapBody and Maternity.
She's not a stranger to the company, having spent eight years early on in her career in product and merchandising at Banana Republic before spending 11 years at Limited Brands. More interestingly, though, she's coming directly from the recently deceased C. Wonder, where she served as EVP and chief product officer. Not the most gleaming spot on her resumé, but we'll give Gap's decision-making the benefit of the doubt here.
Peck, who just came on board as chief executive earlier this month, reaffirmed on Thursday afternoon that he knows Gap is in dire need of a revamp. The executive team isn't satisfied with the brand's performance, he said, noting that the women's business in particular hasn't been on the improvement track it needs to be on — that being the reason for the leadership shakeup. Although Gap Inc.'s net sales grew 2 percent in 2014 to $16.44 billion, its namesake brand's sales sunk from $6.3 billion in 2013 to $6.1 billion in 2014.
Gap's turnaround is going to take time, and it will be a while before we see a significant change in product in stores. Peck says that the team has already bought the majority of its inventory through 2015, and Kirwan is working to make what product changes are still possible at this point, although those improvements will be pretty marginal.
Peck's banking on a "relentless focus on product" to get the brand back on track. Let's see how Goldman handles the job.