Since returning to New Haven in November, the Gant clothing store, which currently stocks only menswear,has received a mixed welcome home.
Ari Hoffman, President and CEO of Gant U.S.A, Sales, said sales are going as well as expected at the new Gant ‘campus-store’ at 268 York St., but interviews with 70 students revealed a different picture. Some male students interviewed said while they liked Gant’s clothing, its prices areprohibitive, restricting its appeal to a smaller segment of Yale’s student body.
Hoffman claimed that turnout was better than expected.
“We are definitely seeing more students than we anticipated, in addition to faculty and local residents,” he said.
But traffic might not be reflected in sales. Out of the 70 male students interviewed, only one, Scott Simpson ’13, said he had actually bought anything at the store. Simpson was also employed at the store last semester.
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Most students cited the high prices of items such as shirts and sweaters as being a deterrent to purchase.
“I do still believe it is priced a bit too high for students, especially undergrads, which hindered traffic a bit,” Simpson said. “I saw a sizable amount of graduate students and New Haven residents shop in the store because their budgets could handle it better.”
Simpson suggested the store’s stock of small and medium sized apparel at opening, which was low despite pulling extra stock from other stores, meant sizes people would be wearing were simply not in the store to be purchased. He added that poor weather could also have reduced store traffic.
But competition may be another factor affecting sales at Gant.
Of 15 male students interviewed at the Broadway J.Crew store, all of them said they had visited the Gant store and decided not to make a purchase because of high prices.
Staff at the J.Crew store declined to comment.
“It’s the same stuff, but way too expensive,” Leland Whitehouse ’14 said. “It’s no help for a broke college kid.”
On Monday night, standard polo shirts retailed for about $70, while button-down shirts mostly retailed for $125 at Gant; at J.Crew, polo shirts and button-downs retailed for around $40 and $60, respectively.
But Hoffman said he did not think Gant was in competition with J.Crew.
“Our focus is somewhat different from [J.Crew’s],” he said. “What we offer is high quality New England lifestyle products built upon Gant’s traditions.”
Carl Sandberg ’14, from Sweden, said the cut of Gant’s clothing is more figure-tailored, and that the brand is popular back in his home country.
“But I think New Haven is a pretty hard market to break into,” he said. “I guess Gant’s raison d’être is that it has a higher fashion level than J.Crew, while not feeling as ancient-fashioned as J.Press.”
Though students might not be involved in the buying side of things at Gant, they are involved in selling.
Simpson, who worked at the store last semester, said he and three other Yale students had been taken on as sales associates. He was unable to continue working at Gant this semester, he said, because his class schedule and workload couldn’t accommodate the hours required of a part-time employee.
Hoffman said it was important to maintain a balance between local resident and student employees because sometimes student schedules can be a challenge.
Because the store opened into the Christmas season, Hoffman said, official student marketing for the campus store would begin around the end of February. He added that the Gant Yale Co-op shirt collection, a line bearing the university’s logo and based on shirts sold at the Yale Co-op in the late-1960s, would become available March 1.
Gant was formerly a Swedish clothing brand, but is now Swiss-owned.