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Gap Exits Bridal, Lands’ End Reflects on Assortment Missteps

Gap Inc. announced this week it will be shuttering Weddington Way, its bridal-centric concept. The news comes as retailers are increasingly focused on crafting assortments that better resonate with their consumers. With the aid of AI and speedier supply chains, they’re better able to separate what works from what doesn’t.

With the wedding category out of the way, Gap is free to pursue its core offering and continue to pioneer new, more promising areas. Similarly, Lands’ End, which discontinued its Canvas label, a younger, more fashionable line that existed less than a year prior, is refocusing on its roots.

Weddington Way, which had bridal shops located within select Banana Republic stores, will cease operations on June 11. A note on the site said Weddington Way has “hope” that the business will continue online, though Gap is only guaranteeing orders placed through the June date.

Gap purchased the business, which launched in 2011, in 2016 with an eye toward offering millennials a new way to shop for bridesmaid garments. Tellingly, that was the same year J. Crew gave up on its bridal business.

While the brand had a loyal following—with half a million fans, according to Bloomberg—it ultimately proved a bad fit for Gap Inc., which was struggling to figure out how to grow it.

By shedding the fledgling venture, the company can now focus on its main nameplates. Of the four concepts, Old Navy and Athleta have been driving the bulk of the business. Old Navy posted a 60-percent comp sales increase for fiscal year 2017, while Athleta saw sales growth in the mid-20s in the second half.

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CEO Arthur Peck told investors on the company’s year-end earnings call that Old Navy, in particular, continues to “win” in part by sticking to its best performing categories. That coupled with the company’s ability to continually replenish goods and deliver on fit, quality and value boosted the banner.

Across the business, activewear played a big part in lifting sales, he said. To foster that performance, the company has established an innovation center to develop new proprietary technical fabrics.

At Banana Republic, Gap Inc. is focused on “pillar” categories, of which sweaters and bottoms were among the best performers during the holidays. At Gap, those key categories included Body and women’s denim.

A year after deciding to shutter its Canvas business, Jerome Griffith, the new CEO at Lands’ End, told The Wall Street Journal the company continues to rejigger its assortment with an eye toward hewing closer to its roots.

Speaking about Canvas specifically, Griffith said it was a misfire that had to go. “It all got marked down, and it didn’t sell at markdown because it didn’t fit our customers,” he told the paper.

At the time, the label was touted as a youthful collection with a European fit and a “strong global influences.” Federica Marchionni, the retailer’s CEO at the time, said, “this new collection allows us the opportunity to reach an additional audience, younger and more fashion conscious, with a strong desire to express their personal style.”

In general, the collection’s bold patterns and more dressed up silk tees and pencil skirts represented a departure from the classic Lands’ End aesthetic.

“Product remains our number one focus as we look to consistently provide customers with superb products that they have come to know and depend upon and that reflect our American Heritage,” Griffiths said during the company’s earnings call last month. “Ultimately, we want to do a few things really well and ensure that we are the destination for key items, such as our squall and expedition jackets, sport, knit and starfish pants, turtlenecks and chinos.”

He said this move, in addition to retooling the company’s marketing, helped Lands’ End “reconnect with our customer.”

Net revenue for the company was up 11.3% for the fourth quarter to $510.6 million. Full year net revenue increased 5.3% to $1.4 billion.