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Tue, Sep 29, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Gap cofounder Donald Fisher dead at 81

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS The company began as a little denim store in San Francisco and grew to become the world’s first specialty retail giant with more than 3,000 stores

REUTERS , SAN FRANCISCO

Don Fisher, cofounder of Gap Inc, right, and Doris, his wife and Gap cofounder, are seen in an undated company photo released to the media yesterday.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Donald Fisher, who cofounded Gap Inc with his wife Doris forty years ago, died on Sunday after a battle with cancer, the clothing retailer said.

He was 81.

The company that the Fishers began as a little denim store in San Francisco now operates more than 3,100 stores in the US, the UK, Canada, France, Japan and Ireland, and it has been credited with inventing the specialty retail category.

The Fishers opened their first store in San Francisco in 1969, and named it The Gap in reference to the generational differences between baby boomers and their parents.

When it first opened, the Gap mainly sold Levi’s jeans, tapes and records, and it flourished in 1970s as consumers snapped up its denim.

In 1983, the Gap hired Millard Drexler as president, and he successfully overhauled the retailer’s image from a seller of Levi’s and other denim brands to one of the most popular private-label apparel brands in US history.

But in the past decade the retailer has stumbled, hurt by aggressive expansion plans, rising competition and fashion mis-steps. Gap has been working in recent years to overhaul its operations, which now include Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta.

Most recently, the Gap chain launched a major denim campaign, offering jeans with better fits and higher-end styling in hopes of bringing back once-loyal customers who gravitated to more fashionable rivals.

In 1995, Fisher stepped down as Gap’s chief executive officer and in 2004 he stepped down as chairman of the board. He continued to serve as chairman emeritus until his death.

Fisher also served on the boards of trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This past week the museum announced plans to permanently house the Fisher Collection, one of the world’s leading private collections of contemporary art, upon completion of its expansion.

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