Gap plans to reopen up to 800 stores by end of May with new safety precautions

The parent company of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta has announced that it plans to reopen up to 800 locations in North America by the end of May after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gap Inc., which also owns Janie and Jack and Intermix stores, announced in a release Wednesday that it will reopen about one-third of its nearly 2,800 locations in North America after working with local governments and observing health guidelines.

Gap reopening stores
Gap reopening stores

The reopening plan is starting immediately, as the mall staple will open a small selection of stores in Texas this weekend.

"Our goal is to be responsibly aggressive," Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal told The New York Times. "Every retailer will have its own opening strategy, but suffice it to say we are looking to open where we're legally allowed to open as soon as we can."

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Syngal also said in the news release that the company is taking what it has learned from its locations in Asia, which already opened, when factoring in how it will reopen its North American stores.

She declined to say how many of the nearly 80,000 furloughed store employees in North America will return upon the reopenings.

Gap Inc.'s decision to reopen stores follows similar announcements by large retailers like Nordstrom and Best Buy, as well as the largest mall owner in the country.

The company also outlined the changes it will be making to stores in order to ensure the safety of employees and customers in addition to continuing curbside service and online sales.

"It really does come down to what governors decide — our whole stance is that we will be ready to reopen as it is safe to do so as dictated by local authorities," Syngal told The New York Times.

Its stores will have hand sanitizer stations at the front doors and checkout counters and will temporarily close fitting rooms. All employees will wear face masks and customers will be encouraged to wear them, though it won't be mandatory.

There will be plexiglass partitions in front of registers, reduced store hours and employees monitoring the amount of customers in the store to observe social distancing guidelines.

Restrooms at the stores will be temporarily closed, and any returns will be quarantined for 24 hours before being returned to the sales floor.

Gap Inc. has also pitched in to help efforts to fight the coronavirus, announcing in March that it was pivoting resources in some of its factories to help make masks, gowns and scrubs for medical workers.