Gap to close? Fears for clothing retailer as it considers shutting all European stores


Gap’s story began with San Francisco couple Donald and Doris Fisher’s quest to make it easier for shoppers to find a pair of jeans that properly fit. 

Together they raised $63,000 and managed to open their first store on Ocean Avenue in 1969, choosing their name from the perceived generation gap at the time.

The store only sold Levi’s jeans and record tapes, but its popularity grew so quickly that it opened a second store the following year. By 1972 it had 25 locations across the US. 

Through the 1970s it started to launch its own brands of clothes as it became a dominant force in the US clothing market. In 1976 it went public with an initial offering of 1.2 million shares of stock at $18 per share.

In 1982 it purchased Banana Republic and opened its first Gap Kids store in 1986.

Having opened their first store in 1969, Gap quickly grew to have 25 locations across the US by 1972, opening its first London store in 1987

Having opened their first store in 1969, Gap quickly grew to have 25 locations across the US by 1972, opening its first London store in 1987

After nearly 20 years of growth in America, the clothing giant decided to cross the pond in 1987 and opened its first store outside the States in London.

Four years later it dropped Levi’s jeans, and a year later supermodels posed on the cover of Vogue Magazine’s 100th anniversary issue wearing Gap-brand jeans and woven shirts. 

By 1995 the brand was opening stores around the world, as a Gap and Gap Kids opened in Tokyo, Japan.

The 1990s boom was overseen by Millard ‘Mickey’ Drexler as CEO, and saw the company open its Old Navy brand, which offered lower-priced clothes for customers.

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After 29 months of slumping sales, Mr Drexler stepped down as CEO in 2002. 

A year later the Old Navy brand went international, and in 2003 Madonna and Missy Elliott starred in a advert for Gap’s autumn designs.

Madonna and Missy Elliott famously appeared in a commercial for Gap in 2004, as part the giant's adverting success in the late 90s and early 2000s

Madonna and Missy Elliott famously appeared in a commercial for Gap in 2004, as part the giant’s adverting success in the late 90s and early 2000s

The late 90s and early noughties saw many famous faces appear in advertising campaigns for the retailer, including Sarah Jessica-Parker in 2004. 

After 35 years of service co-founder Donald Fisher stepped down as chairman of the Board in 2004, continuing to sit on the board of Directors with the title Chairman Emeritus until his death in 2009.

In 2006, Gap was among the retailers implicated in a series of labour rights protests after allegations surfaced of poor working conditions in overseas factories.

The allegations came during the same year that it launched doomed online retailer PaperLime, which was shut in 2015.

Barack Obama's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage was backed by Gap in 2014, but the company has struggled to bring in customers since then

Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage was backed by Gap in 2014, but the company has struggled to bring in customers since then

The following year it closed its Forth and Towne venture, the store for women over 40 was closed down after just 18 months. 

During the 2000s Gap Inc saw Banana Republic go international with a store in Japan, while it also acquired Athleta, a women’s activewear catalogue company. 

Over the last 10 years it has focused primarily on acquisitions, picking up luxury brand US brand Intermix in 2013.

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Barack Obama paid a visit to one of its US stores in 2014 as the company became the first major US retailer to change its starting minimum hourly wage from $9 (£6.87) in 2014 to $10 (£7.63) in 2015.

On its 50th anniversary Gap’s announced its CEO Art Peck would be stepping down from the company, no reason was given. 

According to Forbes, the Fisher family lost $1bn last year. 



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