SAN FRANCISCO: Gap's corporate communicators have hit back at forestry activists who are trying to organize a nationwide boycott of the company's stores.
Last week, on the busiest shopping day of the year, anti-logging protesters rallied and marched in cities across the country to protest the purchase of Mendocino and Sonoma County timberland by the Fisher family, the founders of Gap, Gap Kids, Banana Republic and Old Navy Clothing Stores.
Environmental groups, led by the Redwood Coast Watershed Alliance, claim the Fishers are clear-cutting trees, harvesting old trees and using potentially carcinogenic pesticides.
They said the Fisher family is the primary investor in the timberlands.
'If people knew the money for their Gap t-shirt was going to clear cut forests, they wouldn't buy the t-shirts,' said Mary Bull, organizer of the San Francisco rally.
But Gap hit back this week launching a campaign to distance itself from the forestry operation.
'This is an issues management situation,' said PR official Kristy Van Koughnet. 'We are seizing the opportunity to put the record straight with media customers and employees. There is no link between the retail stores and the Mendocino Redwood Company which bought the land.'
A letter which explains the situation was issued to all staff and made available to all customers. It states: 'A small Mendocino, California-based organization is inaccurately and unfairly using Gap's name to publicize its concerns about the management of forest property in Northern California.'
The letter says the Mendocino Redwood Company is run by Sandy Dean and John Fisher. John is the son of Gap founders Don and Doris Fisher, but is not an employee of Gap.
Mendocino's phone number, mailing address and web-site address are all given in the letter. Gap's PR experts have also set up a toll-free number for concerned customers to call. 'Our biggest concern is our customers,' said Koughnet. 'We care about the communities we do business in.'
John Fisher has so far stayed out of the frame, leaving Dean to handle PR for Mendocino. 'I'm the best person to explain what we're doing,' he said. 'We're developing a sense of trust with the community - we don't want to have someone from outside hired to tell our story.'.