Case study

Gap pulled out all the stops at its staff conference to mark its 25th birthday – including a world record attempt.

Gap holds an annual, three-day conference for managers of its Gap, Outlet and Banana Republic stores from across the UK and Europe. The event has traditionally been held in a hotel environment until last year’s gathering at Center Parcs Elveden Forest. Joanna Newark, Senior Manager at the clothing brand wanted to choose a different location for this year’s event. A number of hotels were shortlisted but Newark eventually chose Center Parcs, Longleat Forest. "I was impressed with the facilities from last year and the fact that this one was at another location meant that it felt different enough to satisfy our requirements," she says.

The event aim is to showcase Gap’s clothes collection ahead of the Christmas season, motivate staff, reward and recognise them and also to facilitate networking opportunities. There is also a team building element and the theme for this year was Making History, to reflect the fact that the clothing brand was 25 years old. As such, it also wanted to mark the occasion with a Guinness World Record attempt.

With 300 delegates coming from across Europe, co-ordinating travel and arrival times was a challenge. In a change to arrangements Gap arranged for an expo to be set up away from the conference centre at Center Parcs, which consisted of a series of stands. This gave those who arrived early on the first day an opportunity to learn more about the business.

The event began with a fashion show in the afternoon, followed by keynote speeches from the management team and dinner on-site. A series of workshops focusing on customer service and products were held on the second day followed by a gala dinner and an Oscar-style awards ceremony.

The last day consisted of a team building event where delegates took part in an African drumming session. This was followed by a successful attempt to break the world record for the largest game of four corners ever held, which was attended by an official Guinness World Record adjudicator. Delegates completed the game on a tennis court at the venue, which Newark says involved a "crazy half-hour of running around".

Newark continues: "We really like working with Center Parcs. It has a capacity for several thousand people and is normally at around 98 per cent occupancy rate, but you never feel that it is crowded. The conference centre is very separate from the rest of the buildings and the space is a real benefit for a gathering of our size."

Newark concludes that The Venue offers great facilities for conferences and team building and fitted well with Gap’s budget. "It’s a great place as you get the opportunity to try different activities and the quality of food is excellent. The Venue is also very flexible with our requirements – much less rigid than a hotel would have been."