Publishers have been hard at work getting products ready the iPad (and charging for them) for the past few months, but the deluge of iPad friendly publications and games has been met with silence from one sector — retail.

This week, Gap has launched a new app that shows how retailers can take advantage of the new platform — and how well free applications can thrive in the new space as well.

According to ClickZ:

“Gap’s free application, launched yesterday, invites users to browse
through a selection of video content, press coverage, celebrity imagery,
and a range of Gap products. Web content is accessible from within the
app, alongside Twitter feeds from Gap staff such as designer Patrick
Robertson. Each piece of content prompts the user to share it with
friends via e-mail, and features a call to action prompting users to
purchase from directly within the app.”

The entire Gap experience is contained within the application. Users can purchase products and view third party links without jumping out of the product experience.

It’s not clear that consumers will be running to the App Store to find retailers, but as I’ve written before, retailers
are starting to encorporate catalog features into their websites
,
and the iPad is particularly well suited for this.

All of the things that excite publishers about the iPad should be
welcomed by retailers. The iPad presents a more tactile experience,
making it more intuitive for viewing content.

And creating an iPad/iPhone specific purchasing product gives retailers more control over the platform presentation. Essentially, they can combine the best aspects of catalog layouts with the immediacy of digital (and mobile) shopping.

But retailers have
one up on publishers with the iPad — they don’t have to charge for apps because they have products they can sell directly to consumers once they get there.

That also means that iPad specific apps may not be entirely
necessary. Consumers may not want to download an app to purchase your
products. However, optimizing a website for smartphone (and touch navigation) could be incredibly
effective. Especially for advertisers who are working with publishers on
the device.

Letting consumers touch and play with products on the iPad is the next best thing to getting them into a fitting room. And products like the iPad even make it easier to do that (Gap’s app also uses the device’s geolocation functionality to help users
locate nearby Gap stores.)

Image: Gap
Video: ClickZ