Abercrombie & Fitch is to shut down its 20 Gilly Hicks underwear stores around the world, including five in the UK.

The US retailer’s underwear brand opened its first UK store in Westfield London in 2010. It also has stores on Regent Street, Westfield Stratford, St David’s in Cardiff and Bluewater.

The news comes as rival US retailer J Crew prepares to open its flagship UK store on Regent Street this week.

Abercrombie & Fitch said it would “continue to offer Gilly Hicks branded intimate apparel through its Hollister stores and direct-to-consumer business”.

There are 20 Gilly Hicks stores in the US and seven overseas, five of which are in the UK.

Property agent Harper Dennis Hobbs director James Ebel, who is advising J Crew on its UK expansion, said there will be “immense interest” from other retailers in Gilly Hicks’ UK stores. “They are all in unquestionably strong locations,” he said.

Abercrombie & Fitch chief executive and chairman Mike Jeffries said:  “In connection with our long-term strategic review, we have decided to focus the future development of the Gilly Hicks brand through Hollister stores and direct-to-consumer channels.

“This decision reflects the successful pilot of selling Gilly Hicks branded intimates in Hollister stores. As a result, we have made the determination to close our standalone Gilly Hicks stores. We believe it is critical to focus our efforts and resources where we have the greatest opportunities to drive profitable growth for our brands.”