US fashion giant Gap is to take advantage of the UK’s “great retail talent” by making London its new international hub as it improves efficiencies across the business.
The news comes as the retailer reveals plans to expand its Banana Republic brand across the UK, outside of London, where four of its five stores are located.
The former head of Europe and franchise Stephen Sunnucks - a Brit - has been promoted to international president as a result of the move, and will lead the newly created overseas division from London. Sunnucks said London was chosen because it is “great for retail talent and great geographically for Gap’s international business”.
Sunnucks said the central office will help simplify communication across Gap’s international business to enable decisions to be taken more quickly, as the retailer aims to grow its overseas business from 13% to 30% of group sales by 2013.
Sunnucks said: “Trends are faster and more global. Our best-seller in China is our best-seller in Italy. This will simplify the business and bring things together in a global sense. It will help us move more quickly.”
London, which was previously the base for its European and franchise arms, will become the retailer’s operational hub internationally for functions such as IT and supply chain across company-operated and franchise stores in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia Pacific and South America.
The retailer’s other international offices in Shanghai and Tokyo will continue to operate, headed by individual managing directors, who will report into Sunnucks.
The two offices will retain their local buying teams.
Gap’s domestic business will continue to be run out of the US.
Sunnucks said the retailer’s focus in the UK is to build the Banana Republic brand outside of London. Banana Republic’s only store outside the capital opened in Bath last month. It launched in the UK on London’s Regent Street in 2008.
He said: “We’ve built the brand and have good brand awareness. Bath is first but we’re looking at others. That’s where the opportunity is.”
Gap is planning to open 190 stores worldwide this year across its brands, but Sunnucks declined to comment on how many would be in the UK. The retailer also plans to double its number of franchise stores to 400 by 2015 and will move its Old Navy brand overseas for the first time when it opens a store in Japan next year.
Sunnucks said: “There’s a massive opportunity to grow internationally. 74% of the global apparel business is outside of North America, yet our business is the reverse.”
Gap’s net sales for its year ending January 30 were $14.2bn (£8.7bn) with $1.92bn (£1.18bn) coming from its international business.