LONDON: US apparel company Gap will close its 81 stores in Britain and Ireland by September but remain online there as it becomes a "digital first business", the retailer said Thursday (Jul 1).
Gap also said it had potential buyers for its outlets in France and Italy.
The move comes as the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have pummelled brick-and-mortar businesses while giving a boost to online shopping.
"In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business," Gap said in a statement.
"The e-commerce business continues to grow and we want to meet our customers where they are shopping," it said, adding: "We're becoming a digital first business."
The company said it was proposing to close all company-operated Gap Specialty and Gap Outlet stores in the UK and Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September.
The move was "due to market dynamics" in the two countries, Gap said.
Gap arrived in the UK in 1987 and in Ireland in 2006.
The move follows a "strategic review" of the company's business in Europe which was launched last year "with the goal of finding new, more cost-effective ways to maintain a presence and serve customers" in the region, the retailer said.
Gap said it was in negotiations with Hermione People and Brands, a unit of FIB Group, to take over its stores in France.
French antitrust regulators gave FIB last week the green light to buy Gap's 21 French shops.
Gap said it was in discussion with an unidentified partner for the potential acquisition of its stores in Italy.