Gap to close all brick-and-mortar UK stores

Gap is set to close all its brick-and-mortar stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland and move its operations fully online by the end of September.

The closures will take place across its 81 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland gradually from the end of August.

The San Francisco-headquartered company also owns and operates the Banana Republic and Old Navy brands and is the third largest retailer in terms of physical locations worldwide apart from H&M and Zara owner Inditex Group.

Gap first opened in the UK in 1987 and in Ireland in 2006.

Gap did not specify exactly how many employees would be impacted by the store closures, but the number is estimated at over 1,000.

The retailer said it would provide “support and transition assistance” to workers, and it is due to begin a consultation with its workforce shortly.

Gap said the decision follows a strategic review of its entire European business, and it intends to sell its stores in France and Italy shortly.

Gap said it is negotiating with French real estate company Hermione People and Brands, the retail branch of FIB Group, to take over Gap stores in France.

The move comes despite Gap’s sales rising 28 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, and 13 per cent versus 2019, besting pre-pandemic results.

Despite lockdown regulations, the retailer improved its net income for the first quarter to $166 million from a $932 million loss a year earlier.

Almost 190,000 retail jobs had been lost between the start of the pandemic and 31 March 2021, according to a study by the Centre for Retail Research released in April.

“In the UK and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business,” said a Gap spokesperson. “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. Due to market dynamics in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, we shared with our team today that we are proposing to close all company-operated Gap Specialty and Gap Outlet stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September 2021.”

They added: “We are thoughtfully moving through the consultation process with our European team, and we will provide support and transition assistance for our colleagues as we look to wind down stores.”

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