Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the clothing retailer. For other uses see Gap (disambiguation).
Gap Inc. is the largest specialty retailer in the United States. Their headquarters are located in San Francisco, California. The Gap's parent company, Gap Inc., also owns and runs the Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing store chains. The Gap also has an international presence in Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Japan.
The Gap was founded in 1969 by Donald Fisher and Doris Fisher. The name came from the growing differences between children and adults, called "the generation gap", which reached its peak with the hippie movement. The Fishers wanted to have a clothing line specifially for youth. Originally, The Gap carried Levi's jeans, but later changed to an exclusive private label model, dropping Levi's in 1990.
As of 2003, The Gap had approximately 165,000 employees and over 4,000 stores worldwide.
Donald Fisher recently stepped down as Chairman of the Board, and will be replaced by his son, Robert Fisher. The Fisher family collectively owns about 25% of the company. The current CEO of the Gap is Paul Pressler, who previously ran the Disney theme parks.
Banana Republic, formerly a catalog retailer selling safari themed clothing, was purchased by the company in 1983, and rebranded as luxury clothing retailer. Old Navy was launched in 1994, as a value chain with a specialty flair.
In December of 1995 the Gap became the first major North American retailer to accept independent monitoring of the working conditions in a contract factory producing its garments. This acceptance came after an international campaign of media criticism and consumer pressure that was organized in Canada by the Maquila Solidarity Network and the Ontario District Council of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). In the United States the campaign was coordinated by the National Labor Committee .
In 2004, the Gap sold all of its German operations to the Swedish H&M, its main competitor in Europe.
The Gap has received mounting criticism over working conditions in its factories. During the spring of 2003 The Gap, along with 21 other companies, was involved in a class action lawsuit filed by sweatshop workers in Saipan. The allegations included "off the clock" hours, where workers were not paid for working overtime, unsafe working conditions, and forced abortion policies. A settlement of 20 million dollars was reached but The Gap contends that the allegations were without merit, saying that lumping the companies together in one lawsuit was unfair.
In 1998, Gap commissioned music video director Mike Mills to make a set of visually striking ads to promote their khakis. They introduced the white letterbox format that has become the signature style of their commericals to date. In addition to the unique visual elements and the use of popular music, the commercials are also notable for introducing the American public to time slice photography, more commonly known as "bullet-time" in their commercial "Khakis Swing" (a year before the technology would become popularized by The Matrix).
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