American fashion chain Gap is considering closing all of its European stores and operating in the region purely through partnerships, potentially putting hundreds of jobs at risk. 

The retailer, which currently has 129 stores spread across Europe, including 70 in the UK and a further 4 in Ireland, said it now wanted to focus operations in the region through physical and online partnerships, according to the Guardian. 

Gap currently has 158 franchise stores throughout the continent, alongside its own physical store estate, which it said would be the focus moving forward.  “As we conduct the review, we will look at transferring elements of the business to interested third parties as part of a proposed partnership model expansion,” Gap’s head of global operations, Mark Breitbard, said.

The move comes less than two years after Gap closed all of its Banana Republic stores in the UK. 

The retailer’s parent company said it would be closing 200 of its own and Banana Republic stores globally this year, after sales fell 18% in the three months to August. The company made a pre-tax loss for the period of $41m (£31m). 

Revenue performance in Europe was one of the driving factors behind this loss, with sales down 47% during the quarter to $71m. 

The retailer will join a long line of other chains forced into closing stores and slashing jobs to stay afloat during the pandemic, such as Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, John Lewis, New Look, Oasis, Warehouse and Topshop.

Sales instead have moved increasingly online, with pureplay titans such as Asos and Boohoo enjoying strong trading. 

Customer spend has also moved away from many fashion categories entirely during the pandemic, while some consumers have increasingly questioned the ethics around the fashion industry and its supply chains.