Thirty-four years after opening its first store in the United Kingdom, Gap will be closing down all its physical stores in the country by the end of September 2021. The American fashion retailer has been in the UK since 1987 and in Ireland since 2006. However, Gap is not really “exiting the UK market” since it is planning to go fully online.
“In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business. The e-commerce business continues to grow and we want to meet our customers where they are shopping,” Gap said in a statement. “We’re becoming a digital first business and we’re looking for a partner to help drive our online business.”
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A total of 81 stores in the UK and Ireland will be closed “in a phased manner” before the last quarter of the year. “Due to market dynamics in the UK 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 United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland,” the company said.
In October 2020, Gap already announced the possibility of closing its European stores, including the ones in the UK, Ireland, France, and Italy. The company was experiencing a decline in global sales, which got even worse during the early months of 2020.
“We are starting a strategic review of options for our Gap business in Europe. One of the options being explored is the possible closure of our company-operated Gap stores in the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and Italy at the end of the second quarter in 2021,” Mark Breitbard, the Head of Gap Brand Global, said.
“In addition, we are reviewing our warehouse and distribution model and our Gap and Banana Republic company-owned e-commerce operations in Europe. A possible outcome is the closure of our EU distribution center in Rugby.”
Aside from Gap, Britain’s largest department store chain Debenhams also closed all its stores this year. The company, founded in 1778, was bought by the online fashion retailer Boohoo in January 2021.