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Sonia Syngal took on the top job at Gap Inc. at the onset of the pandemic in March, a crisis that would have tested even the most battle-tested chief executive. So far, Syngal has proved herself more than up to the challenge: The company’s share price has tripled since the spring, in part because of bold decisions.
Those decisions include closing 350 of the company’s Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America by 2023. The move will mean that only 20% of its Gap shops will be in malls—the place where most consumers first encountered the brand.
Speaking at Fortune’s Global Forum online event on Monday, Syngal offered further context about the decision.
“Stores matter … This is not to say we’re leaving all malls,” said Syngal, explaining the company’s strategy would be about “choosing the right real estate” and focusing on the most relevant malls where consumers are showing up.
Syngal, who had been at Gap Inc. for 15 years prior to her promotion, added that the pandemic had resulted in a crash course in e-commerce—an experience that forced the company to reconsider its value proposition.
“The Gap brand is a lot bigger than the way we were monetizing the brand,” she said, pointing to new partnerships and licensing initiatives, including a 10-year-deal with Kanye West that will see the company introduce a “Yeezy Gap” apparel line.
Syngal stressed that clarity of vision, relevance and “releasing trapped energy” would be among the among the company’s priorities in coming years.
Syngal also addressed the role of social activism within the company, whose other brands are Old Navy and Athleta. She explained recent initiatives—which include paying workers to help at election poll stations and donating apparel to help people keep a foothold in the workplace—as examples of “inclusivity by design,” a corporate value that Syngal described as encouraging participation in all aspects of society.
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