Blog: Leonie BarrieGap's "less is more" philosophy

Leonie Barrie | 4 March 2013

US retail giant Gap is making huge strides in becoming more responsive to what its customers really want, with a new "less is more" philosophy combining with improved speed to market enabling it to take fewer risks with its assortment.

Speaking after the company posted strong gains in its fourth quarter and full year profit, chairman and CEO Glenn Murphy said the retailer has improved its ability to restock or increase orders of popular items in season.

Department store operator JC Penney, however, has been forced to abandon a central part of its turnaround plans after the strategy failed to gain traction with consumers. Widening fourth quarter and full year losses have prompted it to return to a more promotional offer, ending an earlier shift to an everyday low pricing model.

A meeting between stakeholders in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry has been described as "a step forward" after they agreed to work together on workers' rights, minimum wages and fire safety. Progress has seen retailers Inditex and New Look pay compensation to the families of victims of the Smart Export Garment factory fire, while C&A is making funds of US$1m available to support victims of the fire at Tazreen Fashion. C&A has also started an in-depth fire safety audit at all of its suppliers in Bangladesh.

But the long-running Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) monitoring programme is in urgent need of reform, according to a new report, which suggests the country's reputation as a standard-bearer for apparel workers' rights is "wearing thin".

There are challenges, too, when it comes to Burma. The poorest country in South East Asia is seen as having untapped garment production and sourcing potential thanks to its low labour costs, large workforce and beneficial access to rich consumer markets. But it also faces considerable challenges if it is to become competitive.


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