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We Tried Gap's Reserve-in-Store Service and It's Pretty Great

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Image from Gap Spring/Summer 2013 campaign.

Late last month, Gap Inc. soft-launched a new reserve-in-store program, giving shoppers the opportunity to select items online, and pick them up in their local Gap or Banana Republic stores. While the full roll-out won't happen until later this month, we got an invite to try the service in preview mode. So we took one for Team Racked and went shopping.

For those who hate pawing through racks and rubbing elbows with strangers, this service is a dream come true that allows you to reserve up to five items each day.

What can you expect when the system goes live for everyone?

Both stores will add a "reserve-in-store" option to the existing "find-in-store" stock check button. (If you receive an invite to test the new program, you'll need to navigate to the Gap or Banana Republic site through the link in your email to see the reserve-in-store box.) Once you pick a style and size, the system compiles a list of nearby locations with your garment. Select the store your preference, and—with a click of a button—you just saved yourself the trouble of digging through a rack.

Here's an example of what you would see on the Banana Republic site.

A sales associate will do the searching for you, and email to tell you either (a) that the item will be on hold through the following day or (b) that an in-store shopper snagged the last one while you were trolling the Internet. If your item(s) are available, the email will indicate where you will find your items waiting when you arrive. (For example, at the Banana Republic flagship on Grant Avenue, items are held at the now-staffed concierge desk. At Gap on Powell and Market, it's the first floor dressing room.

The Reserve in Store rack at Gap.

Both stores get presentation points for the new program. Reserved garments are held in garment bags labeled with the customer's name. It's not that the garment bags are especially posh—they aren't—but the overall look is sleeker than a jumble of clothes set aside with a rubber band and a Post-It note.

The service is also convenient. At Banana Republic in Westfield Centre, we dodged the gauntlet of sales associates, and walked straight to the dressing room. A staffer pulled the dress we requested from the hold rack, and set us up in a dressing room. Total time between entering the store and walking into the dressing room: About 90 seconds.

The process was slightly slower at the Grant Avenue flagship, where the concierge had to go to a separate room to find the item we requested before escorting us to the closest fitting room. It took about five minutes to walk through the store to the concierge, pick up the reserved dress, and snag a dressing room.

At Gap, the experience wasn't quite as straightforward. When we asked the dressing room staffer for our items, he (very nicely) asked us to wait for the stylist. She was on a break, so—after conferring with other staffers—he decided to let us into extra-special fitting room for reserve-in-store customers. One problem: No one could find the key. All together, it took about four minutes to get into a fitting room, (even though we were standing three feet away from the reserved clothes and empty fitting rooms).

The next surprise: The two garments we requested made a few friends in the hours between our online request and our arrival at the store. At Gap, the in-house stylist is using the reservation process as an opportunity to recommend additional items to form a complete outfit.

We reserved a shirt and a dress. We received these three outfits.

We were initially put off when we received ten items instead of the two we had reserved, but the stylist's input was helpful. An orange dress we requested was unavailable, so she pulled the same style in black, and a similar style in orange. The alternate orange style she suggested actually fit much better than the original dress, so we ended up buying it. (Well done, stylist!)

The final surprise at Gap was the dedicated register. Waiting in the checkout line is très passé: Reserve-in-store clients are escorted from the dressing room straight to a lineless register. If you want to get in and out in a hurry, it's a useful service.

Overall, we had a positive reserve-in-store experience with all three stores, (though skipping the checkout line at Gap was definitely the highlight). If you dread hunting through Gap or Banana Republic for a few specific items, this new service will make shopping more palatable.Robyn Hagan Cain
·Gap [Official Site]
·Online Gap tests in-store pickup [San Francisco Business Times]
·Gap to Expand Internationally With Old Navy and Banana Republic [Racked SF}