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 so that it is able 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.

"The minute the read comes out and we see an opportunity, we can move on that really quickly," he said.

Describing this process as a risk reducing strategy, "because we've been tightening up our assortment, slowly and thoughtfully, across all our brands for the last couple of years," he added: "I think the team has recognised that in some cases, in categories that matter to us, less is more".

For example, he said there have been instances when buyers take 24 colourways in a product, when the customer really only wants 12 or 15.

"The focus that each one of our brands is taking to different levels across different categories, I think, provides a little bit of de-risking of the assortment."

The company is also helping its speed to market by developing relationships along the supply chain, all the way up to the mills.

"As speed came in and speed became more important...what the team and the new structure turned to is really fabric platforming and working upstream with our mills," said Murphy.

"So for the longest period of time, we'd worked directly with vendors, that was 99% of our relationships. And now we have much stronger relationships with mills and fabric, first and foremost.

"The way we've got our merchants and designers to understand it is, if you want speed and you understand the gross margin upside of speed and the customer satisfaction that comes with that, the only way to be able to do that is have fabric that is ready to go."

He highlighted how a multi-year agreement on the Rockstar jeans fabric developed for Old Navy has helped gain a low cost on the fabric. And because is not coloured, all the team has to do, is "make sure that we're giving, in the moment, daily information to the vendors to make sure we're getting the right colour in the right quantity to come in and fill the pipeline."

The retailer yesterday (28 February) recorded a 61% increase in net profit to reach $351m over the fourth quarter to 2 February. Sales grew 10.5% to $4.73bn, rising 5% on a comparable store basis.

Over the full year, net income increased 32% to $1.1bn, up from US$833m in the prior year. Sales grew 8.2% over the year to $15.7bn, and comparable sales increased 5%.