Gap in talks to close all UK stores as thousands of jobs put at risk

Fashion retailer Gap is considering closing down all of its stores across Europe including its branches in the UK, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

The US clothing chain says it is mulling the possible closure of company-operated shops in the UK, France, Ireland and Italy in the second quarter of 2021.

Across Europe the firm has 129 company-owned stores, including more than 70 in the UK.

The company is also considering closing its EU distribution centre in Rugby, Warwickshire, The Mirror reports.

The retailer said it was considering a franchise model where other firms would run Gap stores on its behalf. It is believed Gap had 400 franchise stores across Europe at the end of July.

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"As we conduct the review, we will look at transferring elements of the business to interested third parties as part of a proposed partnership model expansion," said Mark Breitbard, Gap's head of global operations.

The company has already closed some of its UK stores, including its entire Banana Republic chain, having launched in the UK in 1987.

The news comes as Britain's high streets continue to battle to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Swathes of big-name brands, including M&Co, Debenhams and DW Sports have all fallen into administration this year.

However, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, retail sales increased for the fifth consecutive month in September, boosted by non-food items including DIY and garden supplies.

Sales volumes rose by 1.5% – 5.5% higher than the pre-pandemic levels seen in February.

In the three months to September, retail sales volumes increased by 17.4% when compared with the previous three months – the biggest quarterly increase on record as sales picked up from record-low levels experienced earlier in the year.

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