Gap To Launch Designer Line Of Women's Shoes

Struggling Gap Inc. is striking a new style note, and says it will introduce a line of women's shoes in select stores this February. Part of an expanded agreement with shoe designer Pierre Hardy, the shoes will range from chunky platforms to delicate sandals, priced from $78 to $98.

While the designer is better-known for $700 pumps with killer heels, "this collaboration allows our customers to access Pierre Hardy's signature style in a way that reflects Gap's easy-to-wear aesthetic," the company says.

"The shoes will be sold in about 75 stores," says a Gap spokesperson, "primarily in metro markets, as well as online." And while the Gap sells its own branded shoes, this marks its first partnership with a shoe designer, she says. Pierre Hardy's name will not be used in stores, she says, and the shoes will be marketed as part of its Gap Design Editions.

Gap, which has been fighting to shake off a persistent decline in sales, clearly thinks shoes might be part of its salvation. A year ago, it launched, a shoe Web site. In a conference call last week to discuss third-quarter earnings, recently tapped chairman/CEO Glenn Murphy described progress at Piper Lime as "so far, so good." (Gap's earnings rose, primarily as a result of slashing $75 million in its third-quarter marketing spending.)



"It is a very nice complement to our apparel brands," he says. "Even though it's not a very large opportunity," he believes the right steps are in place "to get us to the sales level we want to get to and ultimately to the profitability level we believe we can get out of Piper Lime."

Certainly, it would be tough to overestimate American women's shoe fancy. Total footwear sales in the U.S., reports NPD Group, Inc./Consumer Tracking Service, came in at $44.2 billion in the 12 months ending in October. And a recent poll from Consumer Reports National Research Center found that the average American woman has 19 pairs of shoes.

About four pairs are worn regularly, and about 25% of the average woman's shoes have only been worn once. (Shoe-stat fetishists might also enjoy knowing that 13% of women have hidden a purchase from a significant other, 60% have regretted at least one shoe purchase, 33% are troubled by where to keep all their shoes, and 43% have been at least moderately injured by their shoes.)

But so far, most women aren't keen on buying shoes online. The poll finds that while women are avid online clothes buyers, only 14% make any online shoe purchases. When asked why, 74% say they prefer to try shoes on before buying them.

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