The new year can be the perfect time to reflect on potential and professional development. With a collection of brands and endless opportunity, Gap Inc. employees are no strangers to growing and navigating careers within our own house of brands. Today we sit down with someone with a particularly inspiring story – Christopher Wolfe, who, while building his career at Gap Inc. over the past 12 years, has had 17 different roles across Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy!
What’s your name and current role?
My name is Christopher Wolfe and I’m a District Visual Manager for Gap. I support about 40 stores, focusing on training and development, elevating in-store presentation, and ensuring we have great customer experience through visual merchandising. I find that most visual managers excel in the art side, but my strength is more on the science side. I always tie financials back into what’s happening in the business; we don’t operate museums, we operate retail stores, and we measure success by how profitably we move our product through the registers.
Tell us about your career journey.
I started with Gap Inc. at the Old Navy in Medina, Ohio – it was my high school job. That’s where I fell in love with retail. I never expected that, 12 years later, it would be my career! I had great managers at Old Navy that taught and encouraged me, and made the recommendation to go to school for retail.
I went to Kent State University for fashion merchandising, and while there I moved to Banana Republic as a visual specialist doing in-store displays. About a year into my time at school, I transferred to BR Factory and worked my way up as one of the store’s managers. That’s where I hit my stride and knew I wanted to get into headquarters. I had a district manager at the time who recommended me for our Rotational Management Program (RMP) when I was getting ready to graduate.
I moved to San Francisco for RMP as soon as I finished college and that’s where I learned the most about the industry and how we work as a company. When I completed RMP, I moved into store operations with Old Navy. Once I became a Project Manager of Field Visual, I was able to leverage the experience from the program to find merchandising solutions for our stores’ in-season management.
Two years later, I moved to Boston to be a Regional Inventory Manager for a year a half and absolutely loved it. From there, I moved to New York and was a General Manager at our Old Navy 34th Street NYC Flagship for a short-term assignment. When that finished, I worked on a few special projects for Old Navy, and then jumped at the opportunity to join our namesake brand (Gap) as the Regional Visual Manager for the Northeast.
You’ve been in 17 different roles – that’s a lot! Which do you think was most formative?
Absolutely RMP. You learn so much in such a short amount of time about how the industry works and how the functions rely on one another to make our product come to life. Of all the roles I’ve had since, I would not have been as successful in them if I had not been in RMP – whether that’s understanding how a product is actually made, how our inventory systems work or how our assortment is built.
How have you successfully navigated different roles, functions, brands, and leaders?
I like to think that one of my biggest skills is dealing with ambiguity. In an industry like retail, you need to be able to keep up with change as fast as you can. That’s one of the things I enjoy most – when we can change and evolve and see the benefit. As Don Fisher said, “change or fail,” and that’s what I like to do.
What keeps you at Gap Inc.?
What keeps me here is the consistent challenge and growth opportunities. I feel like the sky is really the limit. I look at myself – this Midwest kid – who started a high school job that led to a long-term career, and three moves across the country. It’s a company that is willing to invest in you and take a risk on you.
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