Brits will continue to visit high streets despite Gap and major retail closures, economics expert says

Gap announced plans to close all 81 of its UK and Ireland stores and move to digital-only sales

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Brits will continue to visit their local high streets despite the closure of major retailers, a leading economics professor told GB News following the announcement Gap would be closing all 81 of its UK and Ireland stores.

The retailer is planning to go online only once the leases of their stores expire, the first of which will begin closing by the end of September.

Professor Steve Musson, of Reading University, said there is "always going to be change" and was part of the "evolution process" of Britain's high streets.

He said: "I think that there's a demand from retailers to look at business rates. "The high street isn't like a museum. There's always going to be changes, so I don't think trying to keep all retailers currently there is helpful.

Gap has announced it will be closing all stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The company said it intends to take business online "in a phased manner" from the end of August through to the end of September this year. Issue date: Wednesday June 30, 2021.
Gap has announced it will be closing all stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The company said it intends to take business online "in a phased manner" from the end of August through to the end of September this year. Issue date: Wednesday June 30, 2021.

"People's tastes change, you see that all the time, and that will continue to happen.

"I don't think even though things are changing at the moment and long-standing businesses are under threat, I don't think that will mean people won't go into town centres."

He cited how microbreweries and city-centre gyms were popping up in town centres - something which "wasn't happening 20 years ago" - as well as more bars and restaurants opening across some high streets.

Gap said it would start its consultation process for affected staff but would not confirm employee numbers.

It added it would provide “support and transition assistance” to colleagues following the closures.

The retailer has been active in the UK since 1987 and has had stores in the Republic of Ireland since 2006. The announcement comes following a strategic review aimed at “finding new, more cost-effective ways to maintain a presence and serve customers in Europe”.

In a statement, Gap said: “In the United Kingdom and Europe, we are going to maintain our Gap online business. “The e-commerce business continues to grow and we want to meet our customers where they are shopping.

“We’re becoming a digital-first business and we’re looking for a partner to help drive our online business.

Shoppers outside the Gap store in London during the Boxing Day sales.
Shoppers outside the Gap store in London during the Boxing Day sales.

“Due to market dynamics in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, we shared with our team today that we are proposing to close all company-operated Gap Specialty and Gap Outlet stores in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in a phased manner from the end of August through the end of September 2021.

“We are thoughtfully moving through the consultation process with our European team, and we will provide support and transition assistance for our colleagues as we look to wind down stores.”

Elsewhere, competitor Primark has hailed “several new sales records” as it said like-for-like sales were above pre-pandemic levels over the past quarter.

Owner ABF revealed that sales for the retailer hit £1.6 billion for the 16 weeks to June 19, “reflecting an increase in both confidence and willingness to spend by our customers”. The company added that it has continued to push forward with store opening and investment plans across the UK and Europe despite the impact of lockdowns.

Meanwhile, another rival, H&M, also struck a more upbeat tone with its own update on Thursday. The Sweden-based firm said it delivered better-than-expected profits after a rebound in sales, but said it was still trading below pre-pandemic levels.

H&M reported a pre-tax profit of 3.59 billion Swedish krona (£300 million) for the past quarter, rebounding from a loss in the same period last year. The retailer also told shareholders that there are “very good prospects” that it will reinstate dividend payments as a result.