Gap is planning to shutter all of its company-owned Gap and Gap Outlet stores in the U.K. and Ireland as part of its effort to revamp its operations.
The company, which has held its business in the U.K. since 1987 and in Ireland since 2006, plans to wind down its stores in a phased manner between the end of August and September this year. The company still plans to maintain its eCommerce business in both countries, however.
“In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business,” the company said. “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.”
The company’s decision to shutter its brick and mortar stores marks a shift in its strategy outside the U.S. market. Instead of focussing on running physical stores abroad, the company is looking to licensing deals and is turning to partners that can help oversee its international footprint, Retail Dive reported.
The company has, for example, worked out a licensing deal with Italian eyewear brand De Rigo to sell Gap-branded prescription wear and sunglasses. The company has also partnered with rapper Kanye West to launch a new Gap-branded YEEZY line.
Meanwhile, in France, the company is negotiating with apparel retailer Hermione People and Brands to take over its French business.
The company sees the franchise model as key to its long-term success abroad. Last week, the company called its franchises “a strong and cost-effective way to amplify the brand in international markets.”
Gap currently works with partners in 35 countries with more than 460 stores, 14 standalone eCommerce sites and 160 multi-channel or pure-play eCommerce sites.