Gap will be shuttering all 81 of its stores in the UK and Ireland by the end of September 2021 as part of a strategic review of its European business. The Guardian estimates that the closures will result in the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.
Shutdowns will begin in August 2021, but Gap isn’t exiting the countries completely — it will maintain its ecommerce business in the region and is looking for a partner to run that operation. Gap has had a presence in the UK since 1987 and in Ireland since 2006.
“In the United Kingdom and Europe we are going to maintain our online business,” said the company in a statement. “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.”
Gap also announced that it would be shifting its company-operated France business to a franchise arrangement with Hermione People and Brands, the retail branch of FIB Group, and that it is actively looking for a partner to acquire its stores in Italy.
Worldwide sales for Gap Inc — which also includes Old Navy and Athleta — declined 16% in fiscal year 2020 to $16.4 billion, despite a bump in online sales.
“We believe in the power of partnering to amplify our brand internationally and we are committed to serving our Gap customers in Europe,” said the statement. “As part of our 2023 Power Plan, Gap began a strategic review of the company-operated business in Europe last year with the goal of finding new, more cost-effective ways to maintain a presence and serve customers in Europe. Franchise partnerships are a strong and cost-effective way to amplify the brand in international markets.”
Gap currently has a presence in more than 40 countries around the world through a combination of company-operated and franchise stores and ecommerce sites. Through franchise arrangements, the Gap brand reaches customers in 35 countries with more than 460 stores, 14 standalone ecommerce sites and more than 160 multichannel or pure play ecommerce sites.