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Gap Out, Flannels In — Are We Witnessing A High Street Wardrobe Malfunction?


Why dress up when nobody will see you? Social distancing and working from home has imposed a massive strain on the fashion and apparel businesses: jogging bottoms are in, smart suits are out. But some of the complexities are only just emerging, and they are strikingly visible in the West Midlands.

Flannels has opened a new 12K SF store at the Birmingham Fort Shopping Park, an investment in out-of-town floorspace and part of a 17-store expansion before Christmas 2021 that has not been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes after the autumn 2019 opening of the fascia’s 18K SF Oxford Street flagship, Retail Gazette reported.

The new larger stores also come with a food and beverage offer as Flannels adapts to an experience-led retail scene.

Yet simultaneously U.S. fashion giant Gap is mulling the closure of its company-operated UK and European stand-alone stores, and the 1.3M SF warehouse it occupies in Rugby.

The retailer is considering closing its stores in the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and Italy at the end of the second quarter in 2021, Logistics Manager reported. Instead, Gap will focus on franchise operations.

The strategies of Gap and Flannels appear to be at odds but probably aren’t. Gap is transforming itself from a retailer into a pure brand, leaving others to do the selling. Flannels is responding by creating larger destination stores out-of-town, a rebirth of destination retail with the hope that it is large enough to merit a visit.

Flannels is owned by Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group, which is looking out-of-town for all its fascias, Drapers Online reported.

This approach stretches to a 90K SF mega-store at Leicester’s Fosse Park embracing Flannels, Sports Direct, Evans and Game.  It is due to open in 2021.