Gap Uses Direct Mail and Loyalty Program to Build Forth & Towne Brand

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In a departure from its usual splashy advertising campaigns, specialty retailer Gap Inc. will focus on direct mail, loyalty marketing and other efforts intended to build direct relationships with customers for its latest retail concept, Forth & Towne.

The first Forth & Towne store opens doors today in West Nyack, NY, followed by four more Aug. 31 in the Chicago area. A loyalty program called Forth & Towne Indulge is expected to build bridges with those walking through the doors.

"Service is very important to this customer," said Forth & Towne president Gary Muto during a conference call yesterday.

He added that Forth & Towne's target customer of women over 35 highly values rewards for patronage.

Anyone who signs up for the program will receive invitations to events and advance notices of sales and new merchandise. Once participants reach a $500 purchase threshold, they will receive 5 percent off future purchases as well as free alterations.

The loyalty program will enable Forth & Towne to learn more about its customer and build a database, Muto said. This way, the brand can efficiently market to the customer by tailoring communications to serve her needs and drive future purchases.

Marketing efforts for Forth & Towne will include a direct mail campaign in Chicago. A promotion in the same region will auction off photographs taken by area women in answer to the question: "What does style mean to you?"

The proceeds will benefit a local charity.

The marketing efforts' focus is to help build the Forth & Towne brand as a destination, Muto said.

A Forth & Towne Web site will be launched when the "timing is appropriate," according to a Gap spokesperson.

No catalog is planned at this time.

Five additional Forth & Towne stores are scheduled to open next year. No locations have been announced yet.

Forth & Towne's audience of women over 35 was mostly overlooked by San Francisco-based Gap Inc.'s other brands - Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy.

Women over 35 feel that most apparel available today doesn't fit their needs, according to Gap's consumer research. As a result, this audience regularly shops department stores because this is where they find the most variety.

Forth & Towne's tack will be to provide a more targeted, edited department-store-like shopping experience. To accomplish this, the stores will offer four distinct brands, each with its own style esthetic, as well as a coordinated selection of fashion accessories.

The stores will also attempt to recapture the look and feel of the classic department store with a circular fitting salon in the center of each store.

Prices will range from under $20 up to $200 for everything from jeans to tops and business suits.


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