Next agrees Gap franchise deal as Antrim and Banbridge outlet stores close

Gap's outlet stores at The Boulevard in Banbridge and Junction in Antrim will close today (Saturday).
Gap's outlet stores at The Boulevard in Banbridge and Junction in Antrim will close today (Saturday).

NEXT has agreed a deal to run Gap's business in the UK and Ireland as a franchise partner.

However, the move will not spark a return for Gap's high street operations, after the retail giant revealed plans in July to axe its 81 stores in the region.

Gap closed its Belfast city centre store in July, with its outlet stores in Antrim and Banbridge closing today (Saturday).

The move will see the two firms form a joint venture - with 51 per cent owned by Next and 49 per cent by Gap - which will see Next operate the US fashion brand's digital operations, concessions and click and collect service.

New York-listed Gap Inc will continue to produce clothing ranges for the brand but the deal will see Next take over the day-to-day operations of Gap in the UK and Ireland.

It comes shortly after Gap said it would leave the Irish and British high street for good as part of a shake-up designed to help the group return to sustainable growth.

Next will use its Total Platform online, distribution and logistics system to run operations for the brand.

Mark Breitbard, chief executive officer and president of Gap Global, said: "Gap is partnering with Next, one of the UK's leading online clothing retailers, to amplify our omnichannel business and meet our customers in UK and Ireland where they are shopping now."

Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson said: "Next is delighted at the prospect of its Total Platform supporting Gap on the next stage of development of their world-renowned brand in the UK and Ireland."

It comes around a year after Next struck a similar joint venture with Victoria's Secret to run the US lingerie firm's struggling UK business.