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Gap Inc. exiting malls, plans to shutter 350 stores by 2024

Retail stores face uphill battle during pandemic
Retailers face uphill battle convincing customers to return after pandemic 01:57

Gap Inc. is moving away from the nation's malls.

The San Francisco-based retailer, which was for decades a fixture at shopping malls around the country, said Thursday that it will be closing 220 of its namesake Gap stores — or one-third of its store base — by early 2024. That will result in 80% of its remaining Gap stores being in off-mall locations.

As part of its restructuring, Gap said it also plans to close 130 of its Banana Republic stores in North America in three years.

The announcement made at a Gap investor meeting detailed a three-year plan that calls for closing what amounts to 30% of the company's Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America and focusing on outlets and e-commerce business.

The moves come as Gap and other clothing retailers are trying to reinvent themselves during the pandemic which forced many nonessential stores to temporarily close in the spring and early summer this year. The lockdown of the economy led many shoppers to shift more of their spending to online, which many experts believe will be permanent.

Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus feel economic toll of coronavirus pandemic 00:33

More than two dozen retailers have filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic including restaurants, gyms and other businesses. Neiman MarcusJ. CrewHertzRuby Tuesday and Gold's Gym all blamed their financial woes on the pandemic. Lord & Taylor ended a nearly 200-year-old legacy after filing for bankruptcy in August.

"We've been overly reliant on low-productivity, high-rent stores," said Mark Breitbard, CEO of the Gap brand, which was founded in 1969. "We've used the past six months to address the real estate issues and accelerate our shift to a true omni-model."

Old Navy, Athleta thriving

But the company plans to add more of its thriving low-priced Old Navy and Athleta stores. Executives said that Old Navy, Gap Inc.'s biggest business with annual sales of $8 billion in its most-recent year, is forecast to grow to $10 billion by early 2024. The plan is to open 30 to 40 new stores in the next three years. Old Navy now has about 1,200 stores.

Athleta, which sells activewear, is forecast to double in revenue to $2 billion in that time frame. It has about 200 stores in the U.S. Its goal is to have roughly 300.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend toward wearing athletic attire — also known as "athleisure" wear — at all hours of the day. Sales of active shorts were up 3% compared to a year ago, while sweatpants were also a hot seller, rising 2%, according to data from NPD group. Sports bras were the biggest winner, with sales up 7% from last year. 

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