Gap to close 75 overseas Old Navy, Banana Republic shops

Like many of its competitors, Gap has been hit by changing tastes and a slowdown in consumer spending globally, as well as competition from online fashion retailers.
Like many of its competitors, Gap has been hit by changing tastes and a slowdown in consumer spending globally, as well as competition from online fashion retailers. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • Gap Inc said it would shut 75 Old Navy and Banana Republic stores in overseas markets, as the struggling apparel retailer focuses on its North American market to revive its fortunes.

The store closures include all its 53 Old Navy outlets in Japan, the company said in a statement on Thursday. Its shares rose 4.2 per cent in after-hours trading.

Like many of its competitors, Gap has been hit by shifting tastes and slower consumer spending worldwide, as well as competition from online fashion retailers.

The company last week warned about store closures after reporting dismal first-quarter sales of its top three brands.

"Old Navy's near-term growth ambitions will be anchored in North America, including its most recent debut of company-operated stores in Mexico, as well as China and its global franchise operations," the company said in a statement.

The retailer had 1,029 Old Navy stores in North America and 69 in Asia as of April 30. It also has 607 Banana Republic stores in North America and 61 in Asia and Europe.

The company said it expected the store closures to result in annualised sales loss of about US$250 million (S$345 million) but help save US$275 million on an annualised pre-tax basis.

Gap has struggled in the past few quarters as a series of fashion misses put off shoppers amid increasing competition from retailers such as H&M, Forever 21 and Inditex's Zara.

While sales of the company's Banana Republic and Gap brands have been falling for some time now, recent declines at Old Navy - the sole bright spot in the past few quarters - pose a bigger headache for the 46-year-old retailer.

Gap's net income fell 46.9 per cent to US$127 million, or 32 US cents per share, for the first quarter ended April 30. Net sales were down 6 per cent at US$3.44 billion, the company reported on May 9.

Up to Thursday's close of US$17.28, the stock had fallen about 30 per cent this year.

Gap, which also owns the Athleta and Intermix clothing brands, said it was not reaffirming its adjusted profit forecast of US$2.20-US$2.25 per share for 2016.

The company said "that trends in the apparel retail environment would need to improve from the first quarter" for it to achieve full-year profit of US$1.92 per share estimated by analysts.

In Singapore, retail and lifestyle group FJ Benjamin carries the brand. There are two Banana Republic stores here, at Paragon and at the mall at Marina Bay Sands. It is understood that these stores are unlikely to be affected by the moves.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Gap to close 75 overseas Old Navy, Banana Republic shops'. Print Edition | Subscribe