Bridging The Gap

Gap Inc. has introduced a side-by-side brand experience in Times Square. Using transparency to compete with the visual and aural overload of this major tourist attraction, this supersized Gap and Old Navy retail presentation is focused on enticing visitors inside and treating them with exceptional customer service.

By Jenny S. Rebholz

With more than 355,000 pedestrians entering the heart of New York’s Times Square each day and more than 50 million people annually, how can a retailer rise above the noise? That was the challenge San Francisco-based Gap Inc. gladly accepted and creatively addressed as it introduced a 34,465-sq.-ft. Gap and 42,557-sq.-ft. Old Navy into this prime location.

For Gap Inc., this was a project in the making for more than four years. From the conception and location acquisition to the design process, logistics and construction, it was not a small feat to create two distinct brand experiences side by side at 44th Street and Broadway, in the heart of Times Square. Stephen Brady, executive vice president of Gap Inc. Global Creative Services, cannot emphasize enough what a major collaboration this was and the gratitude for the many people involved in making this concept a reality, including the Gap Inc. Global Creative Services and Gap Inc. Store Development team members.

As the team considered the challenges of the location and the nuances of presenting side-by-side brands, the key drivers were how to create a distinct or truly “cool” experience that distinguishes the two brands from each other. The intent was to evolve each retail experience while maintaining the essence and character of each brand.

The design team, Brady says, had to ask themselves: “What is the breakthrough? How can we distinguish ourselves?” The answer was transparency. “The goal was to make the stores engaging from the street level, which was accomplished with a lot of transparency,” Brady adds.

Fall into The Gap
For Gap, the storefront windows were set at a height of 11 ft. to play with the street activity and energy of Times Square. White LED lighting frames each window and creates a distinct entry portal to the store, a connection to the brand that is carried into the interior. Above the expansive windows, a transparent synthetic polycarbonate was used to create impact and highlight the oversized dimensional logo. The programmable light system behind the polycarbonate panels allows the store to play with color and light, using this large canvas to emphasize the store activity revealed in the windows.

“Times Square is all about marketing and movement,” Brady describes. “We wanted to create transparency and visibility to focus on drawing people away from that noise and into the store.”

The Gap space plan offers two levels of shopping with the street-level retail leading to a larger lower level. The ground level display space is highlighted by a slatwall and ceiling detail that draws attention to the escalators and elevator. The ceiling slats die into the elevator, which is enclosed in a white-framed scaffolding structure that takes cues from the façade window frames and is accented with a mannequin display. Large-scale marketing images flank a logo display that is revealed on the wall slats as customers move closer and walk through the space.

The team integrated a new fixture design in this location to support flexibility for both hanging and folding merchandise along the windows and entire store perimeter. Dynamic display densification platforms totaling about 50 ft. set the tone with mannequins that dramatically bring the product messaging to life.

The denim area was elevated on the lower level. Display space was maximized and a large community table supports engagement between staff and customers in order to make the shopping experience and check-out easier.

A number of strategies were integrated into the store to support ease of shopping and enhance the customer experience. A neon sign highlights a “chill zone” where shopping companions can relax in comfortable chairs with the ability to charge their phones. Digital screens throughout the store showcase product attributes and offer styling ideas. The dressing room experience was also enhanced, with more spacious rooms and marketing items in upholstered denim serving as artwork. A concierge can offer assistance and, for convenience, can complete transactions right in the dressing room area.

Gap Inc. is continuing to explore more portable POS stations, such as in the dressing rooms. All employees have the ability to check out customers or explore merchandise options digitally with a mobile device. Due to the volume potential in the Times Square location, a traditional sales counter is still in play. (The stores have been experiencing huge surges of business from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., when the stores close.) However, they are prepared for the future as they gain comfort with the volume and new location. The classic cashwrap is comprised of smaller stations positioned together, so as the team adjusts to the learning curve, there is the opportunity to depart from the traditional model.

From a finish perspective, wood floors have always been a signature material for Gap. Due to the advancements in ceramic tile, the Times Square location is now featuring tile floor that offers the plank look of a French oak floor. This product not only offers a durability benefit, but it also supports a lighter, more contemporary and relevant aesthetic.
The team played with subtle material and color changes that create an overall consistency while offering a unique experience in distinct areas. For example, the fixture, ceiling and trim details that are predominantly white change to wood and black accents in the denim area, and metal becomes a signature accent in Gap Body. The Gap blue transitions to a pale blue hue in the kids’ area and a structure that resembles the framework of a house is used to highlight infant clothing.

The Gap experience is given modern touches while maintaining a classic appeal that is communicated architecturally with details, such as finished ceilings, mirrored columns and refined fixtures.

A New Old Navy
At Old Navy, an all glass storefront was the strategy used to achieve transparency, allowing passersby to see right into the store. The store has the ability to explore marketing opportunities using the three-story glass façade. The oversized logo presentation, colorful graphics and views of multiple levels of merchandise entice shoppers with playfulness—the essence of Old Navy.

Part of differentiating the two brands as they interact side by side is playing off their strengths. While Gap has the more classic, refined appearance, Old Navy is about fun and playfulness with a more industrial appeal. The space features a polished cement floor, open ceilings, and exposed beams and ductwork.

In the spirit of playfulness, a platform of mannequins was also placed overhead at Old Navy with projection screens. Visitors walk underneath and the display sequence draws them through the store. The ground floor of this shopping experience includes a section of New York-focused gift items. A fun caricature commentary on the wall is a featured visual element as customers travel via escalator to the second floor. The overhead tube lighting continues enhancing the sense of movement and providing a fun wayfinding cue.

The second level features a major, over-the-top denim presentation adjacent to the windows. And while the glass façade helps entice customers inside, binocular viewfinders at the windows give customers the opportunity to look out at the street activity for some exciting Times Square people-watching. The second level also features a make-up vanity in the beauty section that gives customers the chance to test products (it is the largest in the fleet).

The third level heightens the fun for kids. A dynamic oversized polka-dotted dog, hopscotch on the floor and a polka-dotted “food truck” fixture add playfulness. The food truck is an area that allows for presentation flexibility, the ability to create an ever-changing display.

Just like Gap, Old Navy offers spacious dressing rooms with the ability to complete transactions. Tablets offer look books for additional shopping, as well as games to entertain children. Digital screens throughout the store feature social media feeds encouraging customers to browse, interact and share the looks they love.

Elevating the Experience
This is a supersized Gap and Old Navy experience focused on customer service. The company was committed to elevating the aesthetic and featuring the latest technology and innovations, including omni-screens and tablets. The clean and modern approach to the design combined with the customer-focused amenities and even the important role of music makes each store a memorable destination.

“Placing experiences such as the portable POS, spacious dressing rooms, etc. into this store is our future direction,” Brady says. “We are trying to make less designated areas
and make it easier for the customer to engage with sales associates. We want to make the experience in-store a learning experience and evolve the service model to better serve the customer.”

Gap Inc. believes the brick-and-mortar experience is still an important part of retail. It’s about marketing the touch and feel, the more personal and engaging side of the brand, and creating conveniences like mobile checkout and in-store pickup. For them, the success of this aspect of retail revolves around best serving the customer experience, and the new Gap and Old Navy Times Square lineup shows their commitment to elevating that experience.


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