Gap Uruguay is a prime example of the retail opportunities awaiting in untapped Southern Cone markets.

When winter rolls around, the Gap pullover is one of the most ubiquitous garments of clothing seen on the streets of Buenos Aires. For locals, the three-letter hoodie is somewhat of a fashion statement telling others you’ve been to Bogota, Santiago or Aventura, the closest towns with Gap retail outlets…until now.

San Francisco-based Gap Inc. is saying hello to Uruguay this month in a big way. The company’s first Uruguay store opened two weeks ago on the third level of the upscale Punta Carretas Shopping Center (pictured). Giant “Hello Uruguay” banners hanging from the rafters trumpet the arrival and grand opening of the new 7,000-square foot store.

The second phase of Gap’s Uruguay landing is now taking place led by San Francisco-based consumer private equity firm JH Partners and Montevideo-based Neutral Duty Free Shops. The partners are opening three more Gap stores in Neutral’s Duty Free shops along the Brazilian border in Chuy, Ri­o Branco and Acegua. These first four Gap stores in Uruguay already double the total number of Gap outlets in South America from 4 to 8.

New Gap stores will open in 2013 in the newly renovated Montevideo Shopping and Neutral shops in Bella Union and Rivera. El Observador pegs the first phase of Gap Uruguay investment around US$7 million with an additional US$8 million coming in Phases II & III. (Full Story in Spanish)

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