Gap, one of the world's largest clothing retailers, is to open its first store in China next year in a push for international growth that will include selling online in the European Union and Canada for the first time.
Glenn Murphy, chief executive, said that the company intended to “step up” investment to regain market share and expand international operations after two years working on improving performance.
The China store will be the first new market that Gap has entered directly for more than a decade, rather than through the franchising model, launched in 2007, that it is using in the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe.
“It's a big opportunity . . . Chinese consumers love American brands,” Mr Murphy said at Gap's annual investors' meeting, arguing that US clothing brands were under-represented in the Chinese market.
Gap is also planning to establish a presence in India and Brazil, but has not yet decided on the store ownership model. It announced franchise plans for Russia this year.
Mr Murphy contrasted the new approach to Gap's initial international expansion in the 1990s, when the company had tried to apply a standard US store blueprint not adapted to local markets. Gap closed its 10 stores in Germany in 2004.
Toby Lenk, head of Gap's online business, said that the retailer would open websites in the UK for both Gap and Banana Republic, linked on a single payment platform, which would start shipping products next autumn.
The UK site would also provide a base for selling and shipping to other countries in the European Union, and Gap was considering opening an e-commerce business in Japan.