The Road to Brandweek: Alegra O’Hare on Gap Turning 50 and What’s Next

How the legacy retailer is navigating today’s consumer

Portrait of Alegra O
Alegra O’Hare joined Gap earlier this year from Adidas. Gap
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Like most legacy retailers, Gap Inc. is trying to iron out what kind of company it wants to be.

The 50-year-old brand is undergoing a series of changes as it figures out its next few decades. The company is spinning off Old Navy into its own publicly traded company and then retaining the rest of its brands, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix, Hill City and Janie and Jack under the Gap Inc. portfolio.

Gap’s CMO, Alegra O’Hare, who joined the company earlier this year, walks Adweek through some of the challenges the company is facing and how it’s measuring up. Hear more from O’Hare at this year’s Brandweek, in Palm Springs, Calif., from Nov. 3-6.

It’s Gap’s 50th anniversary this year. What do the next 50 years look like for Gap, and how is the company preparing for it? 
The next 50 years will be amazing! We look to our past, to inspire the future, so we plan on not forgetting what made Gap iconic and culturally relevant all of these years, and we will focus our efforts on those going forward. 

How are you navigating Gap’s marketing and advertising in an age of rapid consumer feedback?
It is important to be culturally connected. To do this, you need teams that are diverse and connected to culture. As a leader, you have to listen and trust your teams—you can’t possibly know everything—so open and frequent conversations are very important. Regarding phenomenons like Popeyes, those are impossible to predict. It’s just part of the world that we now live in! You just need to manage it, but to do it properly you need speed-enabled teams with an absence of bureaucracy and quick decision-making. And if you can tell me how I can get my hands on a chicken sandwich, let me know!

What’s the biggest buzzword in the industry today, and how is Gap preparing for it? 
Two things. Firstly, keeping talent in a company is one of the things that we discuss most. There is a real thirst for high-performing individuals that have positive leadership characteristics and bring results. Secondly, turning brands into cultural brands that serve an authentic purpose. It’s how brands will survive.

Name one important thing about Gap that you wish more consumers knew.
By 2021, the Gap brand is committed to sourcing 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources through Better Cotton Initiative, recycled cotton and organic cotton.

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@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.