Gap's future is questioned but other fashion retailers have a great Christmas

In a big week for the fashion world, Gap looked shaky and Yves Saint Laurent said adieu, writes Jennifer Whitehead in this week's Brand Watch.

Once at the vanguard of fashion retail brands, Gap was facing questions over its future this week, as it reported its 20th consecutive month of falling sales.

The company also announced that it anticipated making a loss of some £36m in the quarter ending February 28, sparking fears that the company's future is looking like a very bleak one indeed.

Commentators blamed everything from Gap's shift away from basics and classic clothing; its corporate arrogance; the design of its stores; and its marketing strategies for the problems it now faces.

The bad news for the US chain was made worse by the fact just about every other retailer was reporting a bumper Christmas, including Next, which reported sales increasing by 9% over the last half of 2001. Even Marks & Spencer, after a couple of years of savage mauling in the media, is expected to unveil a rise in clothing sales of up to 15% when it reports its Christmas sales.

Moving far away from the high street, this week it was revealed that French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was to retire after his latest collection, and that the haute-couture label baring his name would cease to exist. In the past, Saint Laurent's business partner, Pierre Berge, had criticised other fashion labels that had continued after the demise of their creators. "Look at Chanel without Mademoiselle Chanel, and Dior without Christian Dior. It is more than nonsense. It has no integrity, it is a sham."

Scaling even dizzier heights than the catwalks of Paris, the latest instalment in the Star Trek franchise hit British screens this week. It seems Enterprise's creators have more understanding of what keeps the punters coming back than the brand experts at Gap. The new show, which has dropped the Star Trek from its title, was praised in the media for offering fans more of the same, but slightly different, or "Truth, justice, naff shirts: it's Star Trek Jim, as we know it", as The Independent had it.

Apple failed to ignite the kind of hype seen by the introduction of the iMac in 1998, when it introduced its new "lamp-shade" model of the ground-breaking computer this week.

The company needs another hit. The original iMacs were hugely popular, selling some 6m worldwide, but subsequent products found popularity with die-hard fans only, failing to catch on with the mass market.

In the entertainment world, the power of the celebrity took on new meaning this week. EMI saw its share price plummet on Monday after it denied reports that it was trying to pay off Mariah Carey, the diva it signed in a £57m four-album deal.

To be fair on the diva, who was wooed from Sony Music, EMI has had its fair share of bad news and the fact that Carey's most recent album Glitter has sold only 2m copies is only one of many worries the music label has at the moment.

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