Gap Becomes the Next Sears

The retailer Sears was too big to fail. Founded in 1892, it became America’s largest store chain 90 years later and then began to fall apart. Now, for all intents and purposes, Sears does not exist. There have been several retailers that have followed a path similar to Sears. Its stablemate Kmart belongs on the list. So does J.C. Penney. All have done poorly picking merchandise, designing stores, pricing inventory and moving online. It is often said that Amazon has caused 100% of the damage done. That is naive. Management counts.

Gap started to fall apart years ago. After occasional recoveries, it began what is probably its last leg downward. Starting in 1969, it became another of America’s legendary store chain successes. For years it was called America’s largest “specialty retailer,” which essentially means it inhabited the clothing retail niche.

Gap’s earnings forecast shows how desperate its situation has become. One of the first signs of trouble is the ouster of the head of the Old Navy division. As Nancy Green departs, Gap CEO Sonia Syngal will temporarily oversee the division — never a good sign.

Then, there is the case of Gap’s decision to cut its forecast:

In light of the macro-economic dynamics as well as the execution challenges at the Old Navy brand, the company is updating its first quarter fiscal 2022 net sales growth guidance to approximately low to mid-teens year-over-year declines from its prior guidance of mid to high single digit year-over-year declines.

Syngal still believes in the power of the Old Navy brand, whatever that means.

Gap’s share price has dropped below $13. That is down from a 52-week high of $37.53.

Gap has been mentioned as an activist target. However, that may not be true. Even if an outsider could buy the company cheaply, is there any value left to buy?

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