Gap to close all 81 UK and Ireland stores and move online-only to ‘meet shoppers where they are’

Fashion retailer, Gap is exiting the UK high street, with plans to close all 81 stores in the UK and Ireland, the American company has confirmed this week.

The decision has been struck following a review of the fashion brand’s operations across Europe and will see the company shift to online only in the markets affected. As a result, all 81 stores across the UK and Ireland will be shut ‘in a phased manner’ from the end of August through to the end of September this year.

The move is part of the firm’s strategy to ‘meet customers where they are shopping’, detailing its plans to become a ‘digital first business’ as it now begins the search for a partner to help it drive its business online.

“In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business,” said the company in a statement issue this week.

“However, due to market dynamics in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, we shared with our team today that we are proposing to close all company-operated Gap Specialty and Gap Outlet stores in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September 2021.

“We are thoughtfully moving through the consultation process with our European team, and we will provide support and transition assistance for our colleagues as we look to wind down stores.”

The news is seen as another blow to the UK high street which has suffered a number of losses over the last 18 months, including brands Debenhams which closed its last remaining stores on May 15th this year and was bought by Boohoo for £55m in January to operate as an online-only, and Arcadia, the group behind Topshop, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins which closed 31 stores this year after falling into administration in November 2020.

Several of its brands were bought by online retailer ASOS, including Topshop and Topman.

The Brand Informer launches online platform to ‘change the way brands sell and retailers buy’

The Brand Informer Ltd has launched its new online platform,, a service designed to connect retailers directly to brand owners, with the mission of ‘changing the way brands sell and retailers buy.’

The Brand Informer is bridging the gap between brand owners, licensees and retailers, and providing a place online for brands to connect with opportunities to support business growth and retailers to access brands.

The platform will enable brands to showcase their products, outline their core brand values and objectives, and provide a calendar of events that will allow retailers to forward plan. Brand owners’ products will be displayed in clear categories: such as product type which is sent direct to the retailer’s account where it can be viewed in real-time..

All brand owners will be verified, providing retailers with confidence against the threat of purchasing unlicensed products. Buyers will be able to search for products through option choice and filtering systems to enable them to find the specific product they are looking for.

The Brand Informer is the brainchild of founder Victoria Preston, licensing specialist having worked for brands including ITV, Williams F1, England Rugby, England Football, England Cricket and various Premiership Football Teams.

She said: “The Brand Informer is opening up a new way within the licensing industry. I believe by providing a place to support brands, big and small, and offering up to date information to retailers we will see great opportunities for both. I feel passionate in the potential of bridging the gap within the licensing sector to empower both brands and retailers.”

As part of the launch, Preston will be hosting a free course starting on May 17th, 2021 ‘Simplifying the Brand Licensing Buying Process’ helping brand owners and retailers on their own individual journeys. There will be three live workshops, covering how to simplify the buying process for your business.

The workshop is for all business sizes large and small as well as those who are just considering the possibility of licensing.

Disney, John Lewis, and Argos join BRC charter of 55 retailers with pledge for better diversity and inclusion

More than 50 major retailers, including The Disney Store, John Lewis, Argos, and The Very Group have signed to a new charter to take ‘decisive action’ to improve their diversity and inclusion practices.

It follows research from the British Retail Consortium that discovered that seven out of ten (around 69 per cent) of retail firms have top three board positions – chair, chief executive, and chief financial officer – all filled by men.

The same research found that more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their Boards, while 15 per cent have no women on their executive committees. Only 9.6 per cent of the industry’s CEOs are women, and only 4.3 per cent of the sector’s Chairs are women.

This is despite the matter that 58 per cent of the retail workforce is made up of women.

Compiled by the BRC in collaboration with PwC and MBS Group, the research also found that retail ‘has very few black or ethnic minority leaders,’ highlighting that 4.5 per cent of Boards, 5.8 per cent of Executive Committees, and six per cent of Direct Reports to Boards are from an ethnic minority background.

Diversity and inclusion has been highlighted as a priority by some 84 per cent of retailers, but only half or retail employees agree that D&I is sufficiently high up their employers’ agenda.

The likes of Sainsbury’s, Asda, LIDL, and Boots have now joined a group of more than 50 retailers to have signed the charter, pledging to improve their diversity and inclusion practices on all grounds.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail revolves around the customer, and to serve the needs of a diverse country, we need a diversity of ideas, experiences and backgrounds across our businesses.

“Five years ago, the BRC set out a vision for Better Jobs and aspired for retail to be a Diversity and Inclusion leader. The data collected by PwC and The MBS Group in our Diversity and Inclusion in retail report shows there is so much more to be done if we are to reach this goal.

“Nonetheless, I am confident about the road ahead. The first step to achieving change is acknowledgement and understanding of where the challenges lie. Now, we must act. I am proud to see so many retailers pledge to better their businesses and create equal opportunities for all and I am excited to see what the future holds once greater diversity and inclusion is achieved.”

Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at The MBS Group, added: “Retail leadership continues to be unrepresentative of the UK population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and social mobility.

“Given that women make up 64.3 per cent of the retail workforce, and are responsible for up to 80 per cent of purchasing decisions, it should not be the case in 2021 that women are under-represented at all leadership levels – including in the top role, where under 10 per cent of CEOs are women.

“One in five retailers still have all male boards, and 15 per cent of Executive Committees have no women. Likewise, the level of ethnic minority representation amongst the industry’s leaders falls well short compared to the wider population; our research shows that 81 per cent of the largest retailers have all white boards – and 68 per cent have no ethnic minority leadership on their Executive Committees.

“Whilst undoubtedly significant change has been driven in the last decade, there is still a long way to go.”

Retail warns of “revenue-crushing” impact on sector should click-and-collect ban spread

The British Retail Consortium and Scottish Retail Consortium have warned that the curb on non-essential click and collect services could prove ‘disastrous for an already beleaguered retail industry,’ with far wider implications for the UK’s retail sector should the ban widen.

The warning has been issued since yesterday’s breaking announcement that Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon was to impose a ban on non-essential click and collect services for shops across Scotland.

It followed plans detailed by John Lewis Partnership to halt its own click and collect services across the UK in a bid to help the government drive down non-essential travel.

Both moves have been met with disappointment by the retail industry who has united in voicing concerns over the impact it would have on the sector, should the ban spread UK-wide. Until now, retailers have relied on their click and collect efforts to weather a relentless storm of lockdowns and social restrictions that have heavily impacted footfall and business as customers turn to online shopping.

Click and collect services of the non-essential retailers have been their life-line and, in many cases, their last remaining link to local communities, themselves driven to spend more with online giants such as Amazon.

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulations at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Click and collect is used by a wide array of companies and allows the public to get many of the goods they need in a safe, convenient and timely manner.

“Retailers have implemented systems to ensure people are kept safe while queueing and collecting goods, and we have seen no evidence to suggest otherwise.

“Preventing people using click and collect services would harm the viability of many retailers, already suffering under lockdown, as well as severley limiting the choice for some consumers.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium has called the restrictions now set to come into force from Saturday, January 16th as “revenue crushing”.

“The situation with the pandemic is fast moving and we fully recognise government wants people to stay at home. However, these further revenue-crushing restrictions and the fresh complexity they bring, together with constant chopping and changing to the Covid Strategic Framework, are disconcerting and come at an incredibly difficult time for retail.

“Firms operating click and collect or food to go takeaway have taken every reasonable step to make their operations as safe as possible, complying with every twist and turn to government guidance and often at pitifully short notice.

“They have demonstrated they can operate safely and have invested significantly to make their premises Covid-secure, and it appears no evidence to the contrary has accompanied this announcement.”