US clothing retailer Gap has announced it is closing all 81 of its high street stores in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2021, transitioning to an online-only model after being hard-hit during the pandemic like many other brands.
Explaining its decision in a statement, the company said: “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.
“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 United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September 2021.
“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.”
The clothing giant was founded in California in 1969 and opened its first UK store in 1987 but did not arrive in Ireland until 2006.
Its closures see it join the likes of Topshop, Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Laura Ashley, Marks & Spencer, Next, House of Fraser and John Lewis in closing all or some its stores and cutting jobs in response to hardships brought on by national lockdowns in response to Covid-19.
It is also understood to be in negotiations to sell its French and Italian stores for similar reasons.
Commenting on the closures, retail expert Kate Hardcastle told the BBC Gap had failed to find answers to the commercial challenge posed by cheaper competitors such as Primark and TK Maxx.
“The brands you want to shop with in physical retail have to have so much more than just products on offer, they have to have purpose,” she said.
“It just didn’t feel like a company that had embraced the new consumer.”
Gap has also faced tough online competition from the likes of Asos and Boohoo, which it will have to continue to take on as a dedicated e-commerce brand on this side of the Atlantic.