LONDON — Gap Inc. is back on the British high street with a new joint venture partner and a fresh look and feel.
On Monday, the company opened its first, new-generation shop-in-shop inside Next plc’s largest West End store on London’s Oxford Street. It’s the fruit of a new joint venture franchise partnership between the two companies.
Next, one of the few historic high street retailers to survive the rapid rise of online shopping, soaring property prices, and COVID-19, will manage the Gap-branded shops at Next locations, as well as Gap’s e-commerce business.
In addition to its 500 physical stores in the U.K. and Ireland, Next has also been building a vast marketplace where it sells some 700 fashion, home and beauty brands. The Leicester, England-based company is also part-owner of high street clothing brand Reiss, and is the U.K. partner for brands including Laura Ashley home and Victoria’s Secret.
Gap is the largest brand shop within Next’s Oxford Street store, and spans more than 4,000 square feet. The space is smaller than the former Gap stores here, and the design is meant to be more “open, modern and minimal.”
The smaller, curated offer includes denim, khakis and logo product for women, men and kids as well as items from the seasonal fashion ranges. There is also a customization shop offering embroidery, badges and monogramming. The overall focus, principals said, is on conjuring “modern American style.”
Gap said it was keen to re-establish its brick-and-mortar presence in the U.K. market and is currently migrating its e-commerce business to the Next Total Platform. As part of its overall partnership with Next, Gap plans to offer a click-and-collect service at hundreds of Next’s locations; free next-day delivery to Next and Gap stores; and a variety of customer service options later this year.
Last July Gap announced plans to close all 81 of its company-operated stores and outlets in the U.K. following a strategic review of its European operations. Two months later, it inked the JV with Next, with “multiple shop-in-shops” set to open in the second half of 2022. The company declined to confirm the exact number of stores it plans to roll out.
The U.K. was the first European market Gap entered, and through the late ’80s and ’90s it was among its most successful.
“I am so excited at the coming together of these two iconic businesses to relaunch the Gap brand in the U.K. and Ireland. In particular I’m thrilled at the opportunity to bring Gap’s modern, American optimism to our customers at our new London store at 120 Oxford Street,” said Jon Jeffery, managing director of the JV.
Jeffery said the two partners are focused on delivering a range of products that have been “thoughtfully designed, responsibly made, and delivered to our customers with real care and attention. They also happen to represent amazing value for money.”
He added that the JV will “restore belief” in Gap’s pricing. “We know that our customers recognize value for money delivered through innovation, quality and attention to detail. To that end we will focus more on delivering great products, and less on promotions and discounts.
Adrienne Gernand, managing director of International, Global Licensing and Wholesale at Gap Inc., said that partnering omnichannel retailers such as Next allows Gap to “amplify and deliver our relevant, purpose-driven brand to meet our customers in the U.K. and Ireland — and with greater speed, agility, and customer services than ever before.”
She added that Gap’s full, seasonal assortment will be available on next.co.uk and gap.co.uk once the full online experience is launched later this summer.
Gap Inc. continues to do business worldwide through company-operated stores, franchises, and e-commerce sites. Net sales in fiscal 2021 were $16.7 billion.