I've wondered for a while why some established retailers haven't been selling online, given the growth of e-commerce and the potential for extra revenues.

Gap is a prime example of this; despite having a successful e-commerce operation in the US, it has never transferred this to the UK, despite being a recognisable brand with a high street presence in the UK.

However, as announced earlier this year, it has finally started selling its clothes online in the UK, but instead of opening its own site, it has got ASOS to do the job.

ASOS seems to be offering only a limited range of Gap's clothing so far, but it is a smart move for the etailer to attract shoppers searching for Gap's products online in the UK; it is using paid search ads for this at the moment.

I'm puzzled why Gap has chosen this route to sell online in the UK though, since it already has an e-commerce site in the US, as well as (presumably) the knowledge and experience of running an online operation.

Perhaps it is using this option to test the waters in the UK, and may choose to open its own UK website in future if the experiment works out, and by partnering with one of the most popular online retailers in the UK, it stands a good chance of being successful.

From Gap's perspective, it will at last be attracting some custom from the UK's online shoppers, but it seems odd that it hasn't just opened its own UK e-commerce site.

Graham Charlton

Published 24 August, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (3)

Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke, Managing Director at User VisionSmall Business Multi-user

I would expect that will prove to be a fruitful combination (i.e. in terms of user experience, not knowing the business arrangement between the companies).  In my Usability & User Experience course for econsultancy I often reference specific bits of both ASOS (for faceted navigation) and the US GAP site (for persuasion tips and checkout functionality), so it should be a powerful combo. 

almost 9 years ago


Sanjay Vadher, Client Services Director at Tangent One

Indeed – why aren’t established retailers such as Zara, Primark and H&M selling online in the U.K?  This is undoubtedly a business choice that’s baffled me over the last couple of years.

Understandably there’s plenty to consider when setting up an online venture such as stock control, delivery, customer services, third party integration, payment partners. Let alone a new eCommerce site.

But should this justify the huge revenue potential that’s being lost simply by avoiding eCommerce altogether?

TK Maxx rolled out its first ecommerce website in March this year, initially only selling handbags, but last week expanded the online product range to accessories. TK Maxx has a unique business model, which includes rapid turnaround of stock and a daily buying strategy - clearly a more difficult model to replicate online than its bricks and mortar counterpart. However, did not impede TK Maxx’s decision to set up its own shop online.

This recent online growth for TK Maxx demonstrates a customer need and vast growth potential that established retailers without eCommerce should take notice.

GAP’s decision to test the online market via ASOS is probably a safe one. But I’m not convinced that it’s the right one. ASOS was founded for shoppers who want to buy clothes and accessories worn by celebrities. Although the business focus is now far broader – the audience is still primarily aimed at 16-30 year old fashionista’s. Will this audience help GAP make its decision to grow in the UK? How about following TK Maxx and setting up a site with a smaller range but targeting a broader audience? This will allow GAP to provide their own branded shopping experience and build an on-going relationship with customers, which is key for any serious online retailer.

almost 9 years ago



I live in Cornwall and we are unfortunately sparse on big retailers in this county!  We have no malls and certainly no Gaps, H and Ms, Primark, Zara etc.  I am dumbfounded that in this day and age of e-commerce that these big stores don't take the opportunity to set up transactional websites and attract more customers!!!  We would certainly buy but they are doing themselves out of business!!!!  I can't work it out!

almost 9 years ago

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