When you shop in your local Gap store, you might think that the product assortment you see was decided based on aesthetics, creativity, and trends, and you’d be right. But what you might not know, is that most of the decisions for how much and which product makes it into the store is based on...data (aka math! gasp!).
Who are these number crunchers and decision makers you ask? Our fearless team of Inventory Management folks, that’s who. We got to sit down with Gap’s fierce leader of Men’s IM, Christopher Mohler-Morgan, and talk to him about letting the numbers do the talking, his experience working within multiple Gap Inc. brands, and his favorite piece from the Fall / Winter Gap collection.
What does your journey at Gap Inc. look like?
I’ve worked within the Gap Inc. portfolio of brands for eight years. I studied Economics and Asian studies in college, and after I graduated, I worked at Target in Minneapolis. I loved working there, but I ultimately, I wanted to head out west. Luckily, I found an analyst role at Banana Republic, and my dream came true! I was at BR for two years and worked my way up to a planner level. I gained so many foundational tools there since the brand is so regimented and focused. Then I was presented with a really cool merchandise analytics role in the New York offices for Gap. The parameters of role were ambiguous, but there was opportunity to define the role and build something new. So I moved to New York after only visiting once and loved it. I loved the freedom to have so few boundaries but still make such a large impact. Then Gap decided to go global, and at that time I moved to Sr. Manager of Woven’s, Tops, Outerwear and Dresses. After that, I became the Director of Denim and Bottoms, and now I’m fortunate enough to have my dream job as the Senior Director of Men’s Inventory Management. It’s been a ride!
I think some people might be surprised to hear that at a large company like Gap Inc., there are opportunities to directly impact the business all over the place. Can you tell us more about an example like this from your journey?
When I was managing Men’s Inventory Management in Canada for Banana Republic, we had seen that slim fit shirts were selling fast and really over-penetrating the market. At the time, we only had them in our top stores, so we thought to ourselves, “What if we brought these to all stores? What could the opportunity be?” I presented the data to my manager, and she encouraged me to trust the numbers, but most of all to trust my gut. Because we had that mix of insights and instincts, we could move faster than we usually would, and sales skyrocketed. Eventually, the U.S. followed this work too!
Inventory Management is a very data-driven function of the company. What do the numbers ultimately help you do?
I always say that IM is great for people who love to solve problems, are curious, and are great storytellers. When I hire for new members of my team, we don’t require a background in Finance or Economics because that doesn’t automatically make someone successful in this role. Some of my best employees have English backgrounds...yes! Because the numbers don’t just jump off the page and tell their own story, we need to tell it for them. We always need to explain how we got to that number and how we’ll use the data to make future decisions. By looking at sales, weather patterns to determine seasonal trends, and market data, we can better make business decisions and get the right amount of product at the right time to the right customer.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is when you see the results of your strategies and decisions. Once we pick an assortment for each store, we get to see the impact of our decisions, which is so gratifying. That’s a lot of power for someone to buy denim for the whole globe!
How does Inventory Management partner with Design and Merchandising to deliver what we see when we shop in our local Gap store?
It’s a team effort to get the best product out there, and we partner closely with the merchandising and design teams to ensure we’re hitting our business goals, but also making sure that we’re getting the right product to the right customers. Our piece of the puzzle is sharing the data and telling the story of what’s happening when our customer shops in our stores. Then we build the financial plan that supports the merchandise and design strategy.
It’s fun, and Inventory Management is really fun. I get to solve problems every day, which I love. Gap is also a relationship and data driven based company, so I love working with incredible partners that value the numbers and stories I’m able to tell them.
Does working at a portfolio company really matter?
Yes! There’s so much opportunity to gain experience and advance your career within and across the various brands, and I’m a perfect example of that. I’ve had nine different job opportunities within my eight years working here and lived in two incredible cities. There are so many opportunities to learn and so many different cultures between the brands; you can always find somewhere you fit in. We’re fortunate to have so much talent everywhere in the organization, and it’s up to us to find great opportunities for that talent within our six brands.
Gap is in the midst of a transformation. What does it take to transform a brand?
We’ve been focused on how we actually deliver what the customer wants. It’s so basic, but for the first time in the last four years, we have basic denim in stock in our stores. Ultimately, that might seem small, but it builds credibility with our customer that his size will be in stock when he comes into any of our stores. Period. Also, from a product standpoint, we have and will always have the best T-Shirt in the business, and that’s amazing. Those things matter a lot to our customer.
As a team, we’re also looking forward. We’re such a heritage brand, and the past can guide us, but it can’t define us. We have so much data on what works for us and where the market is now. We take insight and move forward. We need to meet and exceed the customer’s expectation, a lot of our customers like shopping in store to have the immediate gratification. And it’s our job to make sure the product is there in his size and that we have enough of it.
What’s your favorite item from Gap’s most recent holiday collection?
That’s easy! It’s the Icon Sherpa jacket. That jacket is amazing, and it was one of those things that when you buy it, it’s so well made and at such a good value. I was so impressed. Sherpa actually performed really well for us this year, so now we’re partnering with the design team to make it even bigger next year.
It’s definitely clear after our chat with Christopher that “data” is much more than just a buzzword on the Gap Inventory Management team. It’s actually a part of “the fashion that happens” at the brand. If you love solving problems and telling stories, check out Gap’s current IM openings!