Gap to Test Clothing Store for Women Over 35

Gap Inc. (GPS) Wednesday said it would test a new store concept next year aimed at women over age 35, and named Gap brand President Gary Muto to oversee the development.

The largest U.S. specialty apparel retailer revealed few details about the new chain, which it plans to begin testing with up to 10 stores in the second half of 2005. The retailer said it would give more information closer to the launch date.

Gap said it would look outside the company for someone to replace Muto as president of its U.S. Gap brand, and hits corral of Gap, Old Navy (search) and Banana Republic (search) brands.

The decision "helps Gap begin to answer the question about where future growth is going to come from," John D. Morris, senior retail analyst at Harris Nesbitt said.

Morris cautioned, however, that it was too early to gauge the impact the new concept will have on Gap's financial results, with the chain's debut still a year away. "It's going to take several years before it actually moves the growth needle."

The San Francisco-based retailer said Chief Executive Officer Paul Pressler would oversee Gap's senior leadership team until a new president is named, and Muto would help with product development and merchandising as needed.

The company said it would consider candidates from outside the retail industry, and was looking for someone with consumer products experience.

With its new chain, the first in a decade, Gap faces the challenge of finding a place for it among its others, which already reach a fairly wide demographic in terms of age and taste, Morris said.

Old Navy, Gap's value-oriented brand, tends to appeal to families, with products ranging from baby to adult. Gap stores carry basics and fashion items, focusing on casual sportswear, while Banana Republic offers more upscale items, including suits and work clothes.

Gap's shares were up 36 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $20.38 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).