American fashion brand Gap will sell its products in the UK and Ireland through a deal with Next – after announcing earlier this year it was closing its own stores.
The two companies have formed a joint venture to operate Gap’s e-commerce business on Next’s Total online platform and host Gap-branded shop-in-shops at selected outlets.
The company, which will be 51% owned by Next and 49% owned by Gap, will also offer click-and-collect options from 2022.
Gap said the deal would allow it to operate in a “more efficient partner model” and benefit from the digital expertise of Next – which has seen its online sales increase even as in-store commerce shrinks.
Mark Breitbard, managing director of Gap Global, said the deal would allow the brand “to meet our customers in the UK and Ireland where they are currently shopping.”
Next CEO Lord Wolfson said: “Next is excited about the prospect of their Total platform supporting Gap in the next stage of development of their world-renowned brand in the UK and Ireland. “
Difference announced earlier this year that it was going to close all of its 81 stores in the UK and Ireland.
It was another blow to Main Street after brands such as Topshop and Topman – part of the retail empire collapsed Arcadia – and chain of department stores Debenhams closed before being sold to new owners as an online-only operation.
The tie-up between Next and Gap was announced as official figures showed a surprise drop in retail sales last month – although fashion stores reversed the trend with a 0.7% increase.
Stores have been hit by the impact of extended closures during the pandemic, which has also accelerated the shift to online sales.
Latest official retail sales data published friday showed online accounted for 27.7% in August compared to 19.7% in February 2020, just before the pandemic.
Gap’s deal with Next comes months later Next took a 25% stake in small high-end rival Reiss, in a deal that also sees Next provide warehouse and distribution services.
Next has also entered into a similar joint venture agreement with Victoria’s Secret to lead the UK operations of the US lingerie firm.