By and  on May 2, 1994

PARIS -- The Gap may be launching its own invasion of Europe.

After testing the waters in a boutique at Galeries Lafayette since September, The Gap opened its first freestanding store on the Continent here last Wednesday. It could be the first of many new Gap stores outside the U.S.

If the first Saturday is any indication, The Gap seems to have struck a responsive chord. Fifteen minutes before its 10 a.m. opening, according to store manager Teresa Hadly, people were lined up outside the store on Rue de Passy -- an area described as "a real family neighborhood." Traffic, she said, was steady all day.

"We have hardly anything left, and they're still buying," Hadly said at about 5 p.m., looking at a packed main floor where shoppers were lined up at dressing rooms and cash registers. "At this point, we are past our Saturday projection by 30 percent."

Hadly -- one of the few Americans working at the store, which has about 25 salespeople just on the main floor -- said the projection was based on the first Saturday of the Gap boutique in Galeries Lafayette.

Most of the buyers were from the neighborhood, she said, "but one woman said she came up from Bordeaux just to see the store."

Most popular, said Hadly, were the women's fashion items, including blouses, cotton crop sweaters and cotton slip dresses. She said she expects a new shipment of "basics" and the new collection on Tuesday.

Opening day was like a child's birthday party, complete with T-shirt painting and balloon twisting. The Gap had invited French mothers and their children to check out the Baby Gap and Gap Kids collections, also making their debut on the Continent.

"Galeries Lafayette has been an excellent entry into the French market," said William Fisher, president of Gap International, "but the corner [boutique] is half the size of this store, and we only offer our men's and women's lines. We can do so much more in this bigger space." The Gap store is in the new Passy Plaza shopping center on Rue de Passy, a popular shopping street in the ritzy 16th Arondissement. The space is a duplex, roughly 14,000 square feet, with one entrance on the street and a second inside the mall.

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