By Khadeeja Safdar
Gap Inc. is pulling T-shirts displaying the names of two indie rock bands from store shelves after the musicians accused the retailer of selling the items without their permission.
The two groups, Cold War Kids and The Shins, discovered the items last month and notified fans that the apparel chain wasn't authorized to sell the shirts. After the controversy arose on social media, Gap learned the third-party from which it had secured rights didn't obtain the proper licenses to use the band names on the merchandise, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The company removed the shirts from its website in recent weeks and started manually pulling the items from stores, this person said. Gap declined to comment.
On March 21, Cold War Kids sought an explanation from the retailer for selling a shirt with its name. "Woke up this morning with messages from friends asking about @ColdWarKids shirt being sold at @Gap," the band tweeted. "We have no clue where this came from, no permission given, no secret million dollar deal. Anybody @Gap wanna tell us what's going on?"
Cold War Kids, which is on tour and playing this month at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, said it received no response or explanation from Gap despite multiple attempts to contact the company over social media.
"The Gap /Cold War Kids shirt was designed and sold in stores and online without our authorization or involvement," lead singer Nathan Willett told The Wall Street Journal in an email. "We would love to pursue legal action, but to what end? We are a blue collar indie rock band and they are a massive corporation."
On Wednesday, Cold War Kids asked fans to start using a hashtag to get the company's attention. "Help us out by retweeting #nevermindthegap so we can make @Gap aware they can't steal shirts from bands," the band tweeted to its 47,600 followers.
The Shins notified their followers on March 29 that the Gap shirt bearing its name was unauthorized. "The Gap is selling a 'The Shins' t-shirt that I never approved," the band posted on its Facebook page. The band directed fans to its own website, where it sells $25 T-shirts and other merchandise. The group, founded and fronted by guitarist James Mercer, wasn't immediately available for comment.
"The Shins take the integrity and aesthetics of the band and its image very seriously and therefore are particularly concerned about this violation of their intellectual property rights by the Gap, which, despite our repeated requests of the Gap, has yet to be fully resolved to our satisfaction," the group, founded and fronted by guitarist James Mercer, told the Journal in an email. "In light of the foregoing, we are reserving our rights and remedies, pending further developments in connection with this matter."
Gap has been closing stores and trying to reinvigorate its namesake brand to be more appealing to millennials. Same-store sales at the retailer have declined for four consecutive quarters.
Analysts have cautioned that the company has lost relevance with younger shoppers. Weak sales in March left the struggling retailer with too many unsold goods that are expected to continue squeezing profits in the current quarter.
Write to Khadeeja Safdar at email@example.com