Gap tackles age-gap with new stores aimed at over-35s

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The Independent Online

Gap, the veteran retailer best known for its casual clothing, is to target women over 35 in a new chain of stores in its first major business development in a decade.

The chain, which will be rolled out next year, will be one of only a handful of retailers focusing solely on women who no longer want to wear clothes aimed at the teens' and 20-year-olds' market, but who do not yet want to embrace middle age.

The chain will initially be opened in the US, focusing on two different parts of the country. If successful, it could join Gap stores overseas, including in the UK.

The chain, which Gap said would cater for "a range of occasions", is yet to be named. The San Francisco-based retailer, which also owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, could choose to give it an entirely separate name, or it may make it an offshoot of the Gap brand.

The move is an attempt to boost sales at Gap, which have been through a rocky period recently, with critics saying it had lost its way in the intensely competitive world of womenswear retailing.

Gap's current head of its US division, Gary Muto, will head the expansion into the over-35 market, which includes shoppers with more spending power than their younger counterparts.

Paul Pressler, chief executive of Gap, said: "Gary is the right person to ensure our brand vision is well-executed through compelling product design and merchandising.

Mr Pressler leaves Gap with a solid strategy in place and an exceptional leadership team who continue to execute against our vision." The company said it had appointed the recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, to find someone to replace Mr Muto as head of Gap's American business.

Analysts said Mr Pressler is likely to be hoping the new chain will help fuel growth after sales last quarter rose at the slowest pace in the two years since he took over.

Gap has also been attempting to sharpen its image, as well as its designs, within its existing Gap stores, with an advertising campaign featuring a string of celebrities.

Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of Sex and the City, appears in the campaign for its autumn range.