As businesses need more face masks for their employees, the apparel brand and retailer sees an opportunity to meet demand through an online B2B portal.

Gap Inc., the iconic apparel brand and retailer, is putting a reverse spin on manufacturers’ and suppliers’ play of launching business-to-consumer ecommerce sites to help grow sales during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the face of this pandemic, the Gap Inc. team was able to quickly respond to a customer need for masks.
John Strain, head of ecommerce and technology
Gap Inc.

Instead of adding a B2C channel, Gap has expanded on its retail business by launching a Gap B2B portal for bulk orders. The portal, which launched earlier this month, sells reusable, non-medical-grade cloth face masks to businesses. The site was developed to provide companies in the public and private sectors a source for purchasing facemasks for their employees as they return to the workplace, Gap says.

The move is in a similar vein to that of some B2B suppliers, such as FoodServiceDirect.com, a division of Unilever, that have built B2C websites to reach consumers that prefer to buy in bulk to help offset declines in B2B sales declines during the pandemic, even though B2C sales are not their core business.

Fast-tracked portal in five weeks

Gap partnered with Paris-based technology services provider and consultancy Capgemini SE to implement and service its B2B website. The website, which uses Salesforce.com Inc’s. Commerce Cloud Quick Start for B2B Commerce program, was fast-tracked and launched in five weeks, Gap says.

Through early July, Gap says it sold 10 million non-medical-grade face masks to employers, including the City of New York, the State of California, Kaiser Permanente and a leading consulting firm. To ensure it can meet demand, Gap says it is leveraging its “deep supply chain relationships” to source millions of non-medical masks as well as personal protective equipment for the healthcare community.

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“In the face of this pandemic, the Gap Inc. team was able to quickly respond to a customer need for masks,” says John Strain, Gap’s head of ecommerce and technology. “We quickly started hearing from companies like ours who wanted to be able to supply their employees with the same product, so we’re excited to extend our high-quality, reusable, non-medical-grade cloth face mask offering to organizations that want to help protect their employees as they re-enter the workforce.”

A roadmap for enhancements

In addition to launching the B2B portal, Gap and Capgemini have developed a roadmap for incremental enhancements that include the ability to build on the existing technology, and sell other protective gear as business needs shift, says Rich Lyons, executive vice president, Alliances & Partners Lead for Capgemini, North America.

“We look forward to our continued partnership with Gap Inc. and creating an engaging online experience for its customers,” Lyons adds.

Gap has set a minimum order of 100,000 masks, or 20,000 five packs, through its portal. Masks, which are designed according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are available in a variety of colors, such as Fiji Pink, Lost at Sea Navy and Tannin Brown. Custom colors and logos are also available, according to Gap Inc.’s website.

In addition to launching the B2B portal, Gap Inc.’s brands, which include Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix, Janie and Jack, and Hill City brands, are donating more than 200,000 non-medical masks to community organizations and causes that help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. In fiscal year 2019,  Gap Inc.’s net sales totaled $16.4 billion.

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.  

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