Fashion retailer Gap is considering closing down its entire European estate of stores, including branches in Britain, putting jobs at risk.
The US clothing chain said it was 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 retailer said it was considering a franchise model where other firms would run Gap stores on its behalf. It is believed Gap has 158 franchise stores across Europe.
“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.
Gap, which is famed for its preppy styles and children’s clothes, launched in the UK in 1987. It grew rapidly but has struggled in recent years and been forced to resort to deep discounting.
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.
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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 per cent – 5.5 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic levels seen in February.
In the three months to September, retail sales volumes increased by 17.4 per cent 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.