Gap wants to fill any gap in online European apparel retailing

February 9, 2011 01:20 PM

If there’s any gap in online apparel retailing in Europe, Gap Inc. intends to fill it.

Today, Gap, No. 23 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide announced plans to expand its e-commerce brands for Gap and Banana Republic to eight more European retail markets: Austria, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia. Gap already sells online in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

With the latest European rollout, Gap is offering consumers immediate shopping on the English-language versions of and and up to three days shipping at a flat rate of 6 British pounds (US$8.21). “Launching in eight additional European countries underscores the loyalty and enthusiasm customers in Europe have shown for our online brands since the sites launched last August,” says Gap Europe and strategic alliances president Stephen Sunnucks.

Gap has been fairly aggressive in building up an online retailing base in Europe since launching a targeted strategy about 18 months ago. When Gap goes live in a new European country, it does so by offering shoppers immediate access to its English-language sites.

And as Gap targets more individual European markets, it will build into its e-commerce sites content written in the local language and local currency payment options, the retailer says. To make it easier to shop all brands—,,, and—Gap also will eventually add to its European sites its universal shopping cart technology. “We’re excited to accelerate Gap global online expansion and extend our exceptional online experience to more European customers,” says Sunnucks.

Gap sees its European e-commerce expansion as an integral part of its plan to generate $1 billion more in annual web sales worldwide within three years. Gap eventually plans to offer international e-commerce capability to more than 80 countries worldwide, including China.

Even with local web sites and advanced technology Gap still faces stiff competition in Europe, especially in the U.K., the continent’s biggest and most well-established e-commerce market. Online retail sales in the U.K. are booming—sales in 2010 grew 23.2% to 48.8 billion pounds ($US78.4 billion; 42.4 billion euro) from 39.6 million pounds ($US63.8 billion; 33.7 billion euro), according to Interactive Media in Retail Group, a British e-retail trade group.

But online apparel is one of the fastest-growing segments of online retailing in the U.K., says IMRG managing director David Smith. “The online apparel space is growing at a rate of 40% annually and recognized brands such as Gap see that type of growth and want to create more market share,” says Smith. “It’s a nice niche, but the competition is mounting daily. The fact that the Gap name is well known here gives them a head start.”




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