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Cramer: Biggest victim of mall shopping decline

At one time, The Gap was considered to be the quintessential American retail brand. But in the past two years, Jim Cramer said the stock has gone from a retail titan to a prolonged underperformer.

"Remember those old commercials with the tagline 'fall into the Gap?' That is how this stock feels to its shareholders, just a seemingly endless free-fall," the "Mad Money" host said.

The Gap's time to shine was back in the 1990s, when Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic were a retail colossus. Cramer explained the decline, stating that after a period of over-expansion the stock cooled off following the dotcom bubble burst, and then in the Great Recession.





Woman holding shopping bags in mall
Dan Dalton | Caiaimage | Getty Images
"Even if they fixed everything, this company would still be one of the biggest victims of the decline in shopping mall traffic." -Jim Cramer

Just when the company seemingly found its footing and was on the way to a comeback in 2014, the rebound proved to be temporary. Since then, Gap has given back gains, including a 41 percent decline last year.

The first warning sign for Cramer was when its long-time CEO Glenn Murphy announced he would step down in October 2014. He handed the reins to Art Peck. By the end of the year, things were falling apart.

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At the time, Peck cited quality and fit issues as the reason for Gap's weak performance, which Cramer interpreted to mean that the people running the company thought they had a problem with the product.

The stock finally appeared to hit a rebound in February 2016, but those gains were erased quickly when Gap confirmed that same-store sales shrank 6.5 percent, with all three divisions down.

"I think the problems here began at their core Gap brand and then spread like wildfire through the rest of the company," Cramer said.

Even with all of its internal issues, the worst problem with Gap is something it may not have control over: the long-term decline of mall shopping.

Countless retailers have felt the effects of a downturn in mall traffic, as many consumers have migrated to shopping online.

Ultimately, Cramer does not want investors to fall into the Gap.

"Here is a company that lost its way quite some time ago. Gap is having an identity crisis when it comes to its brands, and management has some serious issues. Even if they fixed everything, this company would still be one of the biggest victims of the decline in shopping mall traffic," Cramer said.

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