In this day and age, online stores are an important part of the retail experience -- that just goes without saying. Apparently Gap (NYSE:GPS) has forgotten that important fact, having closed its online sites around the end of August and still providing only sporadic access.

Under the auspices of "remodeling" the site, many customers who have visited recently have been greeted with a message that reads: "Coming Soon: The New" It says it's updating the site with "innovative new features to bring you an extraordinary shopping experience" and that visitors should "check back soon."

However, Gap's closure is strangely sporadic. If you hit the site a few more times, you just may be given the "preview," which states that you are one of a limited number of people chosen to experiment with the site's new features.

Although the idea of an overhaul with improved features and functionality is, of course, a good one, one would think that Gap would have the resources to do this kind of "remodeling" behind the scenes so that there is a seamless transition that doesn't interfere with its customers' online shopping.

As it stands now, Gap runs the risk of losing sales as would-be customers are tempted to search elsewhere for clothes. I can't say the timing is good either -- it seems to me that the time period before and after Labor Day still fits within the confines of the back-to-school shopping season. Gap's online stores may represent only a small percentage of sales but it's still an important part of its branding efforts. In the company's annual report, it says, "our online businesses are offered as an extension of our store experience and are intended to strengthen our relationship with our customers."

I have to admit, there are several Fools sitting near me who have been watching Gap's stock price closely, with the idea that it is approaching levels where it could become a serious bargain. And, despite the fact that Gap has been having troubles lately, it is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, chosen for the work it's done on its balance sheet and well-known brand, with the idea that it will soon get itself back on track with sales and earnings.

For my part, though, I have had a hard time believing in Gap for quite some time now, comparing it with other hot retailers that seem more on the ball when it comes to giving their customers what they want, such as Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN) or Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF). Developments like this one don't help the case for Gap. If you want the sales, and the customer loyalty, don't close your doors, even if they're virtual ones.

Read about some recent happenings at Gap:

Gap is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor stock. To find out what other stocks David and Tom Gardner like, take a free trial .

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.