Gap Inc has today confirmed that it will close all of its remaining stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, in a phased process running through the end of September 2021.
The US fashion retail giant announced last year that it was re-assessing its European owned store portfolio and warned of the likelihood it would exit physical retail in the UK.
It revealed earlier this month that some 19 stores would close by the autumn when the leases expired and that its remaining 60 stores would remain under review.
In a statement today, however, the group said: "[...] 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."
Gap has said it will continue to have a digital presence in the UK as digital sales were growing in the market, and it was looking for "a partner to help drive our online business". Rumours are already circling that UK giant Next could partner with Gap on the digital venture, having last year struck a deal with US lingerie business Victoria's Secret to run its UK stores and online business.
Gap has had a physical retail presence in the UK since 1987 and in the Republic of Ireland since 2006. Analysts question whether Gap ever made a profit from its UK stores, given that it made headlines when it first arrived for paying record-breaking rents for high profile retail sites.
Its casual basics played out well in the 90s and its high-profile ad campaigns added to the brand's allure, however it failed to evolve its offer quickly enough and lost sales to more exciting, faster retailers such as Zara and H&M. The pandemic should have provided a great opportunity for its relaxed looks but by the time that hit the brand had already fallen out of favour (it was almost on permanent sale) and others, such as Uniqlo, were doing a better job.
While its stores in the UK and ROI will close, it's better news for France and Italy. The company's statement went on to say: "We are pleased to share that we have identified a potential partner for France. The company is in negotiations with Hermione People and Brands, the retail branch of FIB Group, to take over Gap stores in France.
"In Italy, we are in discussions with a partner for the potential acquisition of our Gap stores and look forward to sharing more information when it is available."
Read our recent analysis: Gap, why did the UK fall out of love with this American classic? here.