Gap pulls retail websites

Gap Inc has surprised e-commerce experts by suspending its online retail operations without warning, apparently while the global clothing company puts the final touches to completely new e-commerce-focused websites. The three sites involved –, and – brought in $563m (&£305m) in sales in 2004, compared with Gap Inc’s total $16.3bn (&£8.8bn) revenue.

All three sites went offline nearly two weeks ago. While the Banana Republic site is now running again, the main Gap site and the Old Navy site are still down.

Most visitors now see a holding message that says/ “Coming Soon: The New We’re updating our site with innovative new features to bring you an extraordinary shopping experience. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. Please check back soon.” Some, however – apparently selected at random – are being given a preview of the new site.

According to Gap Inc, the three sites were taken down while new features were added. The new site includes more information about available sizes and colours and a facility to help match co-ordinating clothing and accessories.

But e-commerce experts have questioned the way the closure has been handled. One says: “Putting a ‘site under construction’ message like this on your home page is the kind of thing a company completely new to the internet might do. For a company like Gap, it seems shockingly amateurish. The transition should have been handled better.”

A Gap Inc US spokeswoman says: “We did talk about this in April and we have been planning a major overhaul of the site for quite some time. It’s not an unexpected event.”

The new Gap site appears to target North America almost exclusively. All prices are in US dollars, and the free shipping offers only apply to deliveries in the US. There appear to be no links to Gap operations outside the US, and the only place where Gap stores outside the US are even mentioned is in the “store locator” section.

It is unclear whether Gap plans to launch a UK- or Europe-specific site. In the UK, is owned by an IT consultancy. Gap Inc appears to have registered, although no site has been put up at this address.

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