How Old Navy quickly turned its stores into e-commerce distribution centers


An Old Navy employee tracks how many people are inside a reopened store in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 8, 2020. | Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nancy Green, the head of Old Navy for Gap Inc., explains to Recode’s Jason Del Rey how her company rethought its business in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic became clear last spring, Nancy Green, the head of Old Navy for Gap Inc., established a central command team dubbed “The Lemonade Team.” The goal: “To make lemonade out of whatever lemons were coming at us,” Green told Recode’s senior commerce correspondent Jason Del Rey.

In a candid interview that kicked off the Code Commerce@Home series, Green recounted her rapid-fire decision-making around core business operations as lockdown orders unevenly swept the nation and e-commerce demand doubled overnight.

“Everything is coming at you really fast,” Green told Del Rey. “You have to quickly react and re-gear how you run your business.”

For Old Navy, that meant temporarily retooling its brick-and-mortar stores as distribution centers to fulfill online orders and building and scaling up curbside pickup in a two-week window. Simultaneously, they retrofitted their stores for eventual reopening with Plexiglass sneeze guards, new cleaning protocols, and signage to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing.

The most surprising thing to Green has been the sheer pace of behavior change that the pandemic caused. “To see a level of e-commerce demand accelerated by several years — it’s extraordinary,” Green said. “I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this ever.”

Green also discussed why she is encouraging CEOs to join Old Navy in paying employees to work as poll workers this election, and how Old Navy competes with Amazon by staying laser-focused on their core business: apparel. “It’s 100 percent of what we do,” she said.

“Clothing is very, very emotional. We don’t look at it as a commodity,” Green said. “These are the things that these people wear, and that builds a lot of psychological safety — when you feel confident and comfortable in your clothes, you feel confident and comfortable in your life.”

You can watch the whole interview here.

Register for Code Commerce@Home to watch Del Rey’s upcoming live interviews with Topicals co-founder and CEO Olamide Olowe and Amazon Worldwide Vice President for Grocery Stephenie Landry.

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