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UK stores escape Gap store cull as 200 are closed in US

Only a handful of Gap’s UK stores are expected to close as part of the US casualwear giant’s plans to rationalise its portfolio by axing 200 shops in the US as it focuses on its outlet operation.

Gap said its international business along with its online ambitions would continue to “underpin” the group’s growth, and confirmed that, as a result, the UK would see “minimal store closures”. A spokeswoman added that Gap intended to open more outlet stores in the UK, as part of broader plans to open 48 outlet Gap stores globally.

Earlier this month, Gap chairman and chief executive Glenn Murphy said the retailer had too many full-price stores and that he planned to close 200 US shops to aid the recovery of the business. At the time, he did not comment on whether there would be any international store closures but did say expansion would centre on outlet stores, where the business gets the most return.

Gap’s like-for-likes for its international business, which includes the UK stores, were up 1% for the full year to January 29. Net sales at its international arm were $1.92bn (£1.17bn) over the 12 months.

Retail Week Knowledge Bank senior analyst Wendy Massey said UK profits had improved of late. The UK arm recorded a £4.1m pre-tax loss in the year to January 2011, an improvement on the previous year’s £8.4m loss. However, Massey warned: “Outlet is a tricky road to go down. Opening lots of factory stores could tarnish its image.”

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