Into--and Out of--The GAP: A Cautionary Account of an American Retailer

How did America's largest clothing retailer, an institution that changed the way Americans shopped and dressed, manage to rise so fast, then fall so hard? From its boom years in the 1970s, Gap's performance went from bad to dismal. By the close of the 1990s there was severe doubt it could survive at all. Gap's alleged labor practices around the world didn't help either. Nevaer leads you through the boom years of this extraordinary corporation, the acquisitions that soured, the product strategies that failed, and thus through the social history of America during those churning years--the changing mores and how they shaped not only the GAP but mass-merchandising itself worldwide.

From a single store in San Francisco in 1969, the Gap, which grew to include Banana Republic and Old Navy, was soon operating more than 3,800 stores with worldwide sales approaching $15 billion. Gap's traditional constituency-- Generation Y--could not be less interested. Gap kids and Baby Gap don't even register a blip on the radar screen. Nevaer shows how all this came about. He describes how the Gap's success in the last quarter of the 20th century parallels the development of consumerism in the United States. He shows how its ability to bridge generations holds lessons for others in corporate America. He also shows why the Gap's history can be seen as a reflection of America's, how it ran on the same track with the country's social mores, particularly in the rise of the antifashion revolution and the proliferation of gay aesthetics. Nevaer's book is a stunning achievement, a true and lasting examination of why we wear what we wear and of the industry that makes it happen.