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Gap Creates New Store for Older Women

First, it was Sarah Jessica Parker as Gap's new poster girl. Now, Gap Inc. is trying to win over Baby Boomer women with style at affordable prices.

The company announced today it is developing a new chain of specialty apparel stores geared toward women over 35. Gap said it would build 10 new brand stores in two locations by late 2005.

Today's announcement follows a two-year study by the company on the U.S. apparel market. "We saw a pretty good area in the 35 and over population that we were not serving," says spokeswoman Stacy MacLean.

Gap wouldn't reveal specifics on the new chain. It's announcement, however, follows Abercrombie & Fitch's rollout of Ruehl, a new store concept for 22 to 30 year-olds. The new chain aims for a higher-end customers as the company seeks to branch beyond its core teenager group.

Abercrombie even created a fictitious story to add sizzle to Ruehl's brick townhouse and city street design. According to the story, the store began in the 1850s when a German family moved to Greenwich Village. The new store's format is set to resemble New York City in the mid-19th century.

"They may be trying to create a European designer bridge line," said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail. "When it comes to fashion, that particular group is absolutely underserved," said Liebmann. With most new designs geared toward younger women, there are really few options available for older women who still want to be fashionable but not expose their navel or look like Paris Hilton.

Gap isn't the only retailer that spots a potential opportunity with this demographic. Children's clothes retailer Gymboree opened its first Janeville store, which sells casual fashion for 30-somethings, in April in California. It now has 10 across the country. By next year, 14 more Janeville stores will open.

"I think the opportunity for retailers in this demographic is that women at this age want to be fashionable and comfortable," said Liebmann. "They know good quality and are willing to spend a little more money for it. But the clothes have to fit into what must be a very busy lifestyle."

Abercrombie, however, is entering a younger female demographic that is over served. "They are tying to capitalize on people who may have grown up on Abercrombie, but there's a lot of competition," said Liebmann. She said the new store's success will probably depend on how well it can create and market a unique design style.

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