By guest author Warren Shoulberg, Senior Contributor Retail at Forbes
Sam’s Club has fallen into The Gap.
In its latest promotional mailing to members, dated May 19 to June 13, the giant warehouse club broke a small program of The Gap apparel, men’s and women’s tops and shorts, four items in total in multiple colours.
“Meet our new friend, Gap,” the circular announces on page 38. “The style icon is bringing their summer-ready styles to the club.”
It is not known if the items are also available in Sam’s physical stores or only online.
Neither retailer, in its press statements over the past several months, has announced this new program which would seem to represent the first time The Gap brand has been available at a third-party retailer. On its website, the company says its “products are available for purchase in more than 90 countries worldwide through company-operated stores, franchise stores, and e-commerce sites.”
Inquiries to both The Gap and Walmart WMT Sam’s parent company, were not responded to on a Sunday afternoon before this article was posted.
The Gap has struggled over the past several years with its namesake flagship brand, with several different strategies and executives, at one time seeking to divide the company into two parts, a plan subsequently dropped. More recently it has announced it was selling off two of its smaller nameplates — Intermix and Janie and Jack — to concentrate on its core brands, which also include Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta.
For its most recent fiscal year, ended Feb. 1, the company saw a drop in its overall sales of around 15 %, reflecting the difficult year virtually all apparel businesses have had during the pandemic when so many people were staying at home and not getting dressed up. Its net loss was USD 665 million versus a net profit of USD 351 million the year before.
For this year the company says it expects to return to profitability with sales up in the “mid- to high-teens” range assuming pandemic conditions wind down.
For Sam’s, the Gap brand, even with such a limited offering, could represent a real fashion differentiator in its constant competition with Costco in the warehouse club sector. It does carry a few items from such national brands as Carter’s, Oshkosh, Champion and Levi’s but those labels are offered in multiple channels. If in fact it is the only place outside a Gap store where you can get its clothing, Sam’s would have a bonafide advantage.
It is not clear how the Sam’s assortment compares to what a shopper would find in traditional Gap stores and online. The men’s short sleeve Henley tops and pull-on shorts and women’s tee-shirts and shorts are generic items and similar or identical styles seem to be available on the Gap site. Gap retail initial prices are significantly higher — the men’s Henley is USD 34.95 but after a 40 % promotional code its price comes down to USD 20.97. Additional savings might be available for some customers but the Sam’s price of USD 10.98 it would seem to be significantly less…again assuming the items are identical.
Cross selling is becoming a rather common occurrence within the retail world with many store brands — from Casper mattresses to L.L. Bean — opening up distribution to third parties. So The Gap-Sam’s hook-up is not groundbreaking in that sense. But as partnerships go, it is certainly one of the more unusual, proving that in these unprecedented times just about anything can happen…and often does.