By  on May 18, 2010

MILAN — Gap Inc. revealed plans to open the first Gap and Banana Republic stores in Italy this year.

The stores will be located in central Milan, next to one another in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, one of the busiest shopping streets in the city. Next year, the company is expected to roll out stores in Rome and other Italian venues.

Stephen Sunnucks, Gap Inc. president, Europe and international franchise, said he was enthusiastic about entering Italy, “a new market, which is also one of the five main ones for fashion in the world.”

The company is expanding its presence globally and, in light of its strong customer base in London and Paris, Sunnucks said he expected the Gap brands to have similar resonance with Italian consumers. The San Francisco-based retailer first said it planned to expand into Italy and China in February. Aside from operating stores for all divisions in the U.S. and Canada, Gap brand has stores in Japan, the U.K., France and Ireland, while Banana Republic has units in Japan and the U.K.

The two stores in Milan will be owned by Gap and will leverage the existing European human resources and distribution infrastructure, said the company.

Milan’s Gap store will cover three floors and more than 84,000 square feet, and carry the Gap, GapKids, babyGap, GapBody and GapMaternity collections. The new Banana Republic location will cover57,607 square feet and carry the brand’s ready-to-wear collections for men and women, accessories and personal care products.

Gap stores total 3,100, and more than 170 of these are based in Europe.

On Monday, the group also unveiled plans to launch an e-commerce site for Gap and Banana Republic in England that will serve nine other European countries, including Italy.

In the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, the retailer reported net profits of $352 million, up 45 percent compared with the year-ago period. Sales rose to $4.24 billion from $4.08 billion in the same period the previous year.

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