Did you hear that? The gasp consumers just made? About the Gap?

Nah, just kidding! We didn’t either. To gasp one would have had to been shocked. Or surprised at the news. But nobody was. Surprised, we mean, at the news that the Gap is closing down 21% of their stores.

The Gap’s position is that demographics have changed so dramatically it doesn’t make sense to be in certain locations anymore. More likely they looked at their stores and realized that they could reduce real estate costs by another million square feet and put that toward their ever-shrinking bottom line.

The Gap has lost more than just retail outlets over the years. At one time, maybe 20 years ago, it made lots of money dealing in all things khaki and business casual. But the Gap lost meaning. It became a category placeholder, a brand consumers knew, but didn’t know for anything in particular. It reached a point that when consumers thought “Gap” they thought “khakis” or “black tee-shirts,” or, more likely, “when’s the next sale, ‘cause I can get those things at other retailers cheaper?” We thought, “Wow they’re 9th out of 10 retail specialty apparel stores on our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, that can’t be good!”

And it wasn’t. When the Gap lost brand differentiation they lost customers. Apparently they lost their marketing moxie too. They only stuck with successful campaigns (think their “fit” campaign for denim) long enough to ratchet up sales a little bit, and then walked away to try something new.

The Gap has suffered from declining same-store sales for years, verging on the death-spiral. In fact, in its most recent quarter they reported a 19% decline in profits and – no gasp here either – a decrease in sales by 2% at stores open at least a year.

They are nothing if not consistent. But for consumers, consistency and differentiation are two entirely different things.

That’s no surprise to us either.