Old Navy vs Gap- Understand the Difference

Old Navy vs Gap- Understand the Difference


Not many people know that Gap and Old Navy are two retail stores owned by the same parent company—GAP Inc. However, those who know they are offspring of the same company have started the Old Navy vs Gap debate—seeking to see the difference. But, both Old Navy and The Gap are fashion staples for many shoppers. They offer swimsuits to loungewear, and you can find almost all you need in those stores. They have clothing in various sizes, from baby size to that of a plus-size—the goal is to dress the entire family.

So, both brands—including Athleta and Banana Republic—are owned by Gap Inc. But, recent news has it that the parent company is looking to split both publicly traded companies. According to the report, The Gap is experiencing a decrease in sales. They attributed the cause to the good sales Old Navy is experiencing recently. Therefore, Gap Inc. decided to split the two companies by the analysis. Fortunately, after careful deliberation, they choose not to continue with the plan and will instead let the two companies continue to exist under the same roof. 

This new decision caused some uproar, especially with those who think the companies should split. However, some others seek to know the difference between the companies and want it broadcasted to the public. They believe that clarification on the Old Navy vs Gap debate will allow both companies to function at maximum potential. One will not overshadow the other, putting it at risk of extinction, as we’ve seen with The Gap struggling in recent times.

  • History of the Gap and Old Navy
  • The Gap Inc.—Diversification 
  • The Arrival of Old Navy
  • Is Old Navy and Gap the Same?
  • Old Navy vs Gap—Differences

History of the Gap and Old Navy

It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to separate Old Navy’s history from that of the Gap. That’s because the history of the former is closely attached to that of the latter. It all started in San Francisco in 1969. Donald G. Fisher got frustrated because he could not find a decent pair of jeans fit for him. Therefore, he decided to start a store of his and called it “The Gap.” He designed the store to be a place to buy low-priced jeans—he added music records to the list. The store recorded so much success that Fisher had to expand his idea to match up to the lightning pace the brand was moving.

The Gap had over 200 stores across twenty states by 1970, and in 1980, The Gap Inc. became publicly traded. It brought in over $300 million in sales, and they were able to open about 80 new stores in those years. Millard Drexler succeeded Fisher during these years, and they continued to expand the company’s territory. The company grew so much that it acquired the Banana Republic and made it thrive as an upscale version of The Gap. 

Gap saw phenomenal success, but it passed through several hiccups, especially in the 1980s. It started two companies: Hemisphere—a sportswear chain store, and a furniture business through brief ownership of the Pottery Barn retail chain. Both firms were only short-lived as they soon experienced failure. 

The Gap Inc.—Diversification 

Having gone through what is, no doubt, a successful sales despite the challenges and hiccups it faced, the spotlight soon began to shine on The Gap and its business models. As a result, rumors began to circulate that Dayton Hudson Corp—a rival company and owner of Mervyn’s and Target—has a plan to take a share of The Gap’s market. They wanted to open a rival clothing store that would sell items at lower prices. When news reached Drexler, he took it as a threat and began to analyze his opportunities. So, he chooses to act first.

On one day, Drexler summoned his staff and made them go to every local discount store for a shopping spree. They went to Target, Walmart, J.C Penney and bought all the clothes and accessories they could find under or within the $10 price range. They all returned with their shopping bags, and Drexler arranged all their purchases on the boardroom table; he then had his advisers look at it. They came up with the perfect idea for a new type of store. 

The company contacted its network of garment factories abroad and requested that they share the possibility of producing a new line of clothing made from inexpensive fabrics. When it was sure that it was possible, they took off with the idea. At first, they named the store Gap Warehouse. By August 1993, The Gap converted some of its existing stores into this new discount-clothing chain.

The Inception of Old Navy

The new Gap store—Gap Warehouse—took off, and it soon became a hit after only a few weeks; the company management thought it was time for the chain store to have an identity of its own. After several deliberations, Drexler settled with the name “Old Navy.” It was a name he saw on a bar as he walked through the streets of Paris. That’s was how the Old Navy store as we know it today came into existence. 

The first store to carry the name “Old Navy” is the one in Colma, California. It opened way back in 1994 and got a high promotion at media events using the free giveaway strategy. Soon enough, the company got Cindy Crawford to sign an autograph for the company, and after only about one year in business, Old Navy got $120 million in sales and opened 59 stores. 

Soon enough, the Old Navy stores began to grow, and they soon doubled that of The Gap stores in size, though they only sold Jeans, T-shirts. The stores were industrial-like, with cement floors, exposed pipes, and chrome fixtures. By 1997, Old Navy had reached $1 billion in sales—the first retail store to cross the mark. That same year, it opened its flagship store in Manhattan, and the number of stores expanded to 131 with over $400 million in sales.

Is Old Navy and Gap the Same?

The simple answer is to settle the Old Navy vs Gap debate: NO, they are not the same. However, the same company—Gap Inc.—runs the day-to-day operations for both stores. Though they tend to carry several similar trends, they cater to different markets and groups of shoppers. The clothes they make are also dissimilar.

For many years—ever since its existence—Old Navy has been known to use clever family-targeted commercials, and they are always centered on the holidays. On the other hand, Gap plays more around sophisticated and trendy style setters. They try to cater to the fashion setting coworker. Though they have a section for children, they cannot be compared with Old Navy’s.

Old Navy vs Gap—Differences

The same company owns the old Navy and Gap, so there are similarities. For example, both brands place their logo on their clothing items similarly. Though the logos look pretty different, those who pay attention to details can quickly spot the similarities in their placement. So, among other things, it may not be easy to spot the difference yet, some differences between them are apparent. Let’s look at some;

Old Navy vs Gap—Price Difference

Both Old Navy and Gap are excellent stores to shop at, especially if you are working on a budget. However, though they both have friendly prices, the most significant difference is the item’s price—the cost of items at Old Navy is usually less expensive than that of The Gap. So, when you need new clothes, you can get them at any of the two places without breaking the bank or putting a hole in your wallet.

The price difference is made on purpose because Old Navy was paraded as a family-oriented store in the early days. When the store came on the scene, its initial motto was “Fashion, Fun, Family, & Value.” And from Old Navy History, we can deduce that it is a store started with the intention to be a less expensive version of The Gap. On the other hand, Gap is a store for the “middle class” market. Gap Inc.’s other brand, Banana Republic, caters to the high-end market.

The pricing structure explains why the Gap has been experiencing a recent decrease in sales. While some believe that Old Navy’s success is the cause, an in-depth analysis shows how consumers’ shopping behavior has changed. They notice a difference in price between two brands and, these days, tilt towards the brand offering items at lower prices while those who care about high-end items and can afford it will go for high-end brands. That leaves a gap between the high-end and low-cost stores—cutting out the “middle” brand like The Gap.

Old Navy vs Gap—Item Sizes

When more than one company makes clothing, a high chance is that the sizes will be different from each other. Old Navy employs the expertise of manufacturers worldwide; therefore, we can expect to have their item sizes vary across the board. So, Old Navy doesn’t seem to have consistency on item size. Most times, the items you buy there run a bit big. You can expect to get a small size clothing in Old Navy to become too big for you, and customers said, at Old Navy, it’s essential to try it on before you buy.

However, The Gap store stays true to size better than Old Navy. If you think you can walk into an Old Navy store, grab an item and go without trying it on, you will most likely soon be back, this time, on the return aisle. At The Gap, customers feel confident to shop online since they know the size they pick will most likely fit. You can’t try that at Old Navy unless you want the headache of returns.


Though similar, the Old Navy vs Gap debate is settled with their differences. Old Navy is usually the one with the bigger store square feet, while if you walk into a Gap store, you’ll feel more like you are in a boutique. You can tell some of these differences as soon as you walk into the stores.

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Old Navy vs Gap- Understand the Difference GAP Inc. owns both Old Navy and Gap. Are there any differences between these two departmental stores? Find out the answer to this Old Navy vs Gap debate here.
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