Gap Inc. plans to launch a new online footwear business through its e-commerce division, Gap Inc. Direct, featuring leading fashion brands for women, men and children. The new business is expected to go online in time for the 2006 holiday season with a broad assortment of footwear offerings from designer to casual brands.

“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,” said Toby Lenk, president of Gap Inc. Direct. “Customers will be able to put together complete looks online from head to toe.”

Online footwear is growing nearly 15% annually and will become a $5.5 billion market by 2010, according to analysis conducted by Forrester Research in 2005. Research conducted by Gap Inc. indicates the company's own, sizeable 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.,” said Lenk. “, and are all consistently among the top 10 specialty apparel sites in terms of traffic, so we believe we already have an active and loyal customer base for online footwear.”

Lenk has assembled a team of footwear and e-commerce leaders that will be dedicated to the business. Agreements with dozens of leading footwear brands have been signed to date.