Jim Stewart writes the Wall Street Journal's "Common Sense" investing column. It's not the first place you'd look for marketing tips, but the folks at Gap should read today's column, assuming they have a subscription. Stewart discusses the stock of a retailer headquartered in Kearney, Nebraska, of all places. Called "Buckle," it serves the notoriously fickle teenage market through 390 stores in 40 states.
Since competitors like Abercrombie, American Eagle and The Gap are sucking wind, Stewart was initially skeptical that Buckle would be a good investment. So he drafted his college-age niece and her sorority sisters to check out its stores.
Their verdict: "The salespeople] are always really attentive and friendly and they always end up bringing you so many other cute jeans and shirts to try on ... and then you end up buying more than you planned on." "I shop there to buy Silver jeans. They are the only brand that fits me, and last many years. I also like the type of clothing they have, which is different from other places like AE [American Eagle Outfitters], Hollister, A&F [Abercrombie & Fitch]. ... I feel the clothes they sell are definitely worth the price."
From feedback like that, Stewart deduced Buckle's marketing strategy: fit, selection, and service make "medium to better-priced merchandise" a good value. That may be why, in a market roiled by quirky fashion trends and reeling from the Great Recession, Buckle has racked up 21 consecutive months of double-digit sales gains. It's stock is up and it's planning to expand into the Northeast. Gap, are you listening?