Gap Inc. plans to reduce the number of operating stores in North America in the coming years while focusing on expansion overseas, the company announced Thursday.

The company said it was committed to rebalancing its specialty and outlet stores in within North America... and said it would reduce the number of specialty stores to 700 by 2013, a decrease of 34 percent from the end of 2007. There was no indication of which stores would be closed.

While downsizing in North America, the company plans on expanding in China. By the end of 2012, it plans to triple the amount of stores from 15 to 45 and it expects to double its franchise stores to about 400 by 2014. Furthermore, the company plans to open its Old Navy store in Japan within the next 18 months.

The combination of our global strategy and formidable growth platform puts us in a strong position to expand our reach into the top 10 apparel markets worldwide, Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Despite closing Gaps in North America, the company does plan to operate 50 Athleta stores on the continent by 2013. Currently, the company operates 10 of the athletic apparel stores.

Gap shares were up 0.39 percent at $17.92 by market close.

Write to Samuel Weigley at