Gap is to close all of its UK stores and sell online-only as it moves to a digital-first approach to commerce.
The fashion retailer’s decision to close the 81 stores that it operates in the UK follows a strategic review of its European business. During that process, it says, it became clear that there was likely to be a different outcome in its different markets.
In France and Italy, the outcome is that it plans to run a multichannel service, with shops continuing to operate alongside its online business. The retailer has found potential partners to trade its French and Italian stores. In France it is set to work with FIB Group retail arm Hermione People and Brands.
But in the UK and Republic and Ireland Gap says that the market dynamics are different and it now plans to close all of its Gap and Gap Outlet shops in the two markets, while selling only online.
Gap, which is ranked Top250 in RXUK Top500 research, says in today’s announcement: “In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business. The ecommerce business continues to grow and we want to meet our customers where they are shopping. We’re becoming a digital-first business and we’re looking for a partner to help drive our online business.”
The retailer is now in consultation with its European staff, and expects to wind down its UK shops by the end of September.
Gap signalled its shift to a digital-first strategy as it reported full-year results in March 2021. Then, Gap said 45% of its sales took place online in its latest financial year, one hit by repeated Covid-19 lockdowns and in which ecommerce grew by 54%. During that year, to January 30, it closed 228 Gap and Banana Republic stores, including 24 in Europe. That left it with 117 stores – all Gap branded – in Europe out of a global total of 3,715 of which 3,100 were directly owned.
Gap has operated in the UK since 1987 and the Republic of Ireland since 2006. This week’s update show that it now sells in more than 40 countries around the world through directly operated stores, franchise stores and ecommerce sites. Its franchise business supports its presence in 35 countries, with more than 460 shops and more than 160 multichannel or pureplay ecommerce websites.