Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Store Review: GAP

Location: LHT Tower, Central
Type of goods: casual clothing
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

GAP, which also owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, is the largest clothing retailer in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after Spain’s Inditex, which owns Zara and Bershka. In the 1990s, GAP came to Hong Kong and left: its casual designs at not-so-casual prices failed to impress Hong Kongers. Almost two decades later in 2011, the American retailer decided to give it another try and opened a four-story flagship store at the LHT Tower on Queen’s Road Central.

The GAP on Queen's Road Central 

But how the times have changed. With the influx of Mainland visitors willing to drop serious cash in exchange for a piece of Americana, GAP’s second act is shaping up to be a big hit. There is now a line to get in at lunch time and on weekends. And I thought Louis Vuitton was presumptuous to put velvet ropes outside their entrance.

One of the reasons why GAP failed in the 1990s was its size chart, which was catered primarily to the ever-expanding waistline in America. A medium-sized sweatshirt from GAP USA would hang on the petite Asian figure like a potato sack. But the retailer has learned. This time around the Hong Kong store by-passes the U.S. and sources their merchandise directly from GAP Japan, which means a “small” is really a small and skinny guys can find size 28 pants that actually fit them. At long last, GAP fans in Hong Kong no longer need to fly to Tokyo just to buy a basic tee with the three-letter logo.

Vanity sizing has gone wild in America

But the layout of the Central store is less than ideal. With the exception of the basement level, the other three floors are smaller than a two-bedroom apartment. And since there are no internal staircases that connect contiguous floors and the only escalators are the public ones located outside the store, shoppers end up crowding in front of the in-store elevator banks. The elevator mayhem creates not only a stressful shopping experience but also a potential fire hazard.

GAP is a welcome addition to the casual clothing scene in Hong Kong. Whether you are a diehard supporter or just a curious passerby wanting to check out the new kid on the block, you will find the store uniquely American and a refreshing alternative to Uniqlo and Zara. I offer you two pieces of advice. First, instead of queuing up like an idiot outside the store, walk inside the LHT Tower, take the building escalator up and enter the store on the second floor. Second, never pay full price at a GAP store. Buy only when it goes on sale – the discount can be staggering!

GAP regularly goes on massive sale

1 comment:

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