Do you think I can get Chrissie Hynde to join me in a rally to save Gap (NYSE:GPS)? I know, the rocker once led a PETA-powered protest against the chain when it introduced leather jackets, but can I get the old Pretender to help someone like me on the grounds that Gap is endangered?

Yes, "brass in pocket" has been hard to come by at the specialty retailer that has brought up Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. Comps have fallen by 28% since 1999, and most of the company's concepts are tired. We've come a long way from the days when the brand was so iconic that Adam Sandler in drag -- as Lucy the Gap girl -- would have Saturday Night Live audiences in stitches.

The fashion-savvy Mickey Drexler got the company into this mess, and the finance-savvy Paul Pressler only waded deeper into the quicksand. The founding Fisher family is back at the helm, and my friend Anders here isn't the only one arguing that Gap should explore "strategic alternatives" and cash out while it's still alive.

I don't see it that way. Gap can be saved. Just because spunkier chains such as Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN), and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) have stolen Gap's edge, that doesn't mean Gap can't steal it back. Just because Target (NYSE:TGT) has floored thrifty shoppers with its "cheap chic" approach, that doesn't mean Gap can't alter the value perception back in its favor.

It won't be easy. It's not supposed to be. However, don't believe the reports out there claiming that no one wants to take this cursed job. No, I don't think Drexler will leave J. Crew (NYSE:JCG) to come back, even though he may very well be the right elixir for the company to swig at the moment.

There's someone better out there, and Gap will find that person. How can I be sure? Well, let's just say that the high-profile challenge and sandbagged financials make it a high-reward, low-risk job opening.

Let's go over those free-falling comps for a sec.

















*Through the end of December. Gap's fiscal year ends in January.

Any sharp retail vet can tell you how easy it is to bounce back after such a dismal streak. Just getting back to the sorry state that the company was in during 2004 would represent a 13% spike in comps. That's before we even begin to consider the favorable tailwind of inflation.

And then let's talk about the ego-stroking nature of this business. Beauty may only be skin deep, but seasoned vets -- even some stars growing bored in retirement -- would kill at a chance to prove themselves worthy on the same stage that claimed Drexler and Pressler.

More than just a chieftain
Gap needs more than just the right CEO to justify its existence as a standalone investment. The Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation will need some catalysts.

Maybe that will come from following in the footsteps of a company such as Limited (NYSE:LTD), in spinning off its smaller, successful concept. Rapidly growing potential gems in Gap's portfolio, such as the upscale Forth & Towne or its Piperlime online shoe store, may make for enriching spinoffs. Maybe spinning off Banana Republic or Old Navy would do the trick.

Some critics have argued that Gap's demise has come as it has kowtowed to the masses. By expanding so broadly, it has settled for stocking the lowest common denominator of apparel basics. I don't entirely buy into that theory, because that approach didn't hurt it in the 1990s, but I can accept that refreshing change is needed.

Maybe it's a matter of transforming some of its existing stores into entirely new concepts or experimenting with an edgier store-within-a-store approach. Gap's cash-rich state grants it the luxury to bankroll change as well as bounce back if the tweaks don't pan out.

Why sell out at the bottom? Even Lucy the Gap girl wouldn't do something as ditzy as that.

For more on young adult fashion, check out:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz didn't step into a Gap or Banana Republic in 2006, though he did get dragged into an Old Navy once. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this duel. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.