business news | COVID-19: GAP fashions online focus through UK and Ireland store closures | Business News

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Gap, the US fashion retailer, has announced plans to close 19 stores in the UK and Ireland next month following more than a year of coronavirus disruption for highs streets.

The company, which had warned last year that it could exit its physical retail space in the two countries entirely, said the decision was taken to leave the sites when leases expire in July.

It refused to say how many jobs would be affected by the closures.

Topshop is among big names to have exited the high street over the past few months

Gap did also not provide details on the locations to be shut but said its proposals would leave around 50 other stores open, pending the conclusion of a continuing strategic review ordered at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

That could also affect sites in Italy and France.

The company said it was “keen to maintain a presence in Europe” but this could include greater focus on its online sales.

Such a move would be tempting to help shield Gap from the possibility of further lockdowns that have already accounted for some of the biggest names on the high street including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia empire and Debenhams.

The remnants of both are now in the clutches of online specialists Boohoo and ASOS with the respective brands, including Topshop, trading digitally only.

The retail sector has been among the biggest losers in terms of the pandemic hit to employment.

Gap was among non-essential retailers to reopen their UK stores from 12 April.

A spokeswoman said: “We are proposing to close 19 Gap stores in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland that have leases ending at the end of July 2021.

“These leases are not being extended due to the strategic review that we have under way.”

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