Gap to Launch Footwear Website

San Francisco-based apparel retail giant Gap announced Monday that it will add a new online footwear business to its multichannel stable. The yet-to-be named venture will launch in time for the 2006 holiday selling season and sell footwear for men, women, and children from established brands and Gap branded products. “As a company we’re well known for brands that we build,” says Gap spokesperson Greg Rossiter. And between its Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic brands, “we’ve built what we believe is the best-in-class platform for online retailing.”

Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic already sell a limited number of Gap branded shoes through their retail and online stores, but Rossiter says the new business will include dozens of leading footwear brands. And according to a survey of online Gap customers last year, two-thirds said they would buy shoes online from the merchant. Rossiter expects the site to be a destination for customers looking for fashionable footwear. “It will allow us in the future to dress customers from head to toe,” he says.

On competing with other online-only footwear merchants such as 6pm.com and Zappos.com, Rossiter believes Gap’s new e-commerce platform and fashion knowledge will differentiate it from the others. “Our offerings will be distinct and we have unique expertise and merchandising and branding in fashion,” Rossiter says. Online footwear sales are growing at nearly 15% annually and are set to reach $5.5 billion by 2010, according to analysis by Forrester Research.

Management for the new brand will include a mix of new and existing leadership, including Cathy Beaudoin, senior vice president and general manager for Gap Direct. Beaudoin was formerly with the Old Navy brand and has experience with Gap’s branding and direct customer experience segments.

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