Gap's E-Commerce Business Steps Into Shoe Wear

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Gap Inc.'s e-commerce division will launch a shoe Web site this fall, the San Francisco-based retailer said yesterday.

The new online venture will feature leading fashion brands for women, men and children and will include a range of styles from designer to casual. It is expected to go live in time for the 2006 holiday season.

"The highly fragmented, rapidly growing online footwear market offers a tremendous opportunity for Gap Inc. to leverage our expertise in e-commerce, merchandising and marketing to deliver a distinct fashion point of view," Gap Inc. Direct's president Toby Lenk said in a statement.

The sales of online footwear are growing nearly 15 percent annually and the category will become a $5.5 billion market by 2010, according to Forrester Research, Gap said.

The company's own research shows its online customer base already buys shoes online. "Almost two-thirds of our online customers surveyed last year said that they would buy shoes online from Gap Inc.," Lenk said.

Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic each currently sells shoes in stores and on their branded Web sites. The selection is limited and consistent with each brand's positioning. The new online venture will provide the company with an opportunity to offer a wider array of styles and brands.

The footwear market is stepping up of late. In January, IAC/Interactivecorp added shoe Web site Shoebuy.com to its retail portfolio, which includes HSN and catalogs such as Garnet Hill, Ballard Designs and Travelsmith.

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