On a whim, I decided to visit Chadstone, the fashion capital here in Melbourne because The Gap opened its first shop in Australia there today.
It wasn't too crazy - busy, yes, but not insane. A girl greeted me as I entered the shop with a perky "Welcome to The Gap!" and there was another sales assistant on the other side of the doors handing out Gap branded chocolates. It was all very cheerful, and I began browsing in the ladies section.
The shop is laid out like any other shop at Chadstone. It's worth noting that there are two levels, with Baby Gap upstairs (I think, I didn't actually go up there because there was a bit of traffic on the escalators), but the lower level has the men's and women's wear.
This is the only photo I managed to take inside the shop on my phone before I got told politely that "We can't allow you to take photos in the store. Sorry, the manager will get really angry." Will he? That's too bad - so stressed out on the first day of business, my heart bleeds for you! The guy who told me this was wearing a headset, so I presume he reports any illicit photo-taking directly into the manager's ear so the Angry Manager can come down and shout at people.
Anyway, like I said, I began browsing and made a couple of notes in my phone (I didn't dare write anything down in case I got reported for writing things in a little notebook, SHOCK HORROR) about the prices and such.
First of all, they do have a nice collection of casual and dressy casual wear, which I liked - a lot of good basics for the wardrobe. A lot of it in the women's section tended towards the Spring/Summer wardrobe, which I was a bit disappointed with. I had hoped to see a few more Winter-y things like jumpers, but they did have plenty of long sleeved t-shirts, jackets, trench coats, button down shirts and blouses, and a couple of cardigans. They did also have bikinis, a few pairs of shoes and general accessories like hats, scarves and bags.
The most obvious flaw I spotted straight away is that they've stuck with US sizing in the Australian shop, which is hideously confusing and, I suspect, not accurate against our sizes. For example, the jeans are labeled as size 0/26 (or whatever size 0 equates to), which is kind of stupid. I was asking the girl to explain the sizes to me and she gave me a brief run down on what each one is, so I asked her what a size 14 or 16 would be and she told me "We don't actually stock anything over a size 12."
They DO NOT STOCK OVER SIZE 12 in jeans/pants. Some of the most common clothing sizes in Australia are not catered for, immediately ignoring most of the female population. Well done Gap, well done. But wait! I was told, as I held up a teeny, tiny "size 12" pair of jeans that they're a "loose fit." Phew! I was worried there for a second!
Insert eyeroll here.
Anyway, I continued on through the shop and found a couple of super cute floral shirts (very Felicity Porter-esque), so I reached up to feel the fabric. It was paper thin people. I put my hand inside the shirt and could actually see it fairly well through the fabric. I checked the label: made in China. Not really a surprise, but given the shirt was $79.95 I would have expected slightly better quality.
There were a couple of cute jackets and trench coats, but again, they were very thin. There were a couple of nice maxi dresses, and a good array of denim jackets, which a lot of people were checking out, as well as short shorts, singlets, t-shirts and other Summery things. Towards the back of the shop there were a few racks of buttons down shirts that were slightly more business-like, but still quite casual, which I really liked. There were also some tables with sleeveless dressy tops, as well as a couple of racks with cardigans and long sleeved t-shirts, so they seem to have most of their bases covered.
I am a dork and noted down the prices for a bunch of items and came home to compare them against the items on The Gap's US website, so here is a quick sample list of clothing stocked in the Melbourne shop versus the prices online on the American website (note that the items I looked up on the USA website are similar, not the exact same item).
$129.55 (Melb) vs. $22.54 to $78.63 (US prices converted into Aussie dollars)
$99.95 vs. $28.17 to $78.36
$79.95 vs. $16.90 to $44.54
$69.95 vs. $16.90 to $56.37
$39.95 per piece (top or bottom) vs. $6.76 to $28.17
$89.95 vs. $16.90 to $67.10
Button down shirt
$79.95 vs. $20.29 to $67.10
So you can see that the Melbourne shop has jacked up the prices a bit in most cases. Obviously they have overheads and import costs/taxes to deal with, but I don't really think a paper thin shirt should cost almost $80. Call me cheap, but when I'm shelling out what is nearly $100 for a casual shirt, I don't expect it to feel like it will fall apart after two washes, especially when I could visit Jeanswest or a similar shop to purchase something for nearly half that price. I think that while people will making a lot of purchases there for the first couple of months, come November or December and The Gap will start slashing prices in pre-Christmas sales, and that's when I'll wait to grab a few bargains.
It's also worth noting that The Gap's US website now ships to Australia, so you can potentially pick up a lot of bargains there (however I'm not sure if they ship sale items overseas).
The verdict? Iffy. Prices are a little bit too high when you compare them to the quality of the garments, and limiting the sizing to size 12 and under for women is a HUGE mistake (apparently the tops ago up to a size 14, but I didn't see any in the store while I browsed). While I think The Gap will be a nice novelty for a little while, by the end of the year I think they'll be having huge sales and/or sending a lot of their stock to the factory outlet store at the DFO in South Wharf.
Have you been to check it out? What did you think?