Italian tourists were landing in the States with empty luggages and fill them with goods from these companies.
Some of these brands have lost their appeal as of late.
No longer able to identify themselves with the cultural changes in society, they started looking only in their backyards for inspiration.
The Gap launched a division for women 40+ in a country where age is a taboo: something like "my dress is my ID".
Starbucks sold its "third place" experience to save one or two minutes to people in line. What it communicates: take your coffee and run when coffee is a pleasure that takes time to enjoy.
Many others followed the same path.
Get clued in -- read marketing books, but read newspapers and magazines as well
Observe -- go shopping and see what people look for and buy
Interact -- don't stop looking around and listening to people
Drive -- those changes, if you can
Experience -- be part of the world outside your office, your facilities
Adapt -- to the social and cultural changes
This is a revised version: thanks to Valeria