Old Navy brand president resigns

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gap Inc. says the president of its Old Navy brand has resigned, but the company also has secured a former merchandising employee to serve as a consultant to its struggling namesake brand.

The retailer announced Thursday that Tom Wyatt will leave Old Navy Feb. 3. The company named two senior executives to assume his duties while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

Wyatt’s departure is another blow to Gap as it struggles to turn around falling sales trends. He joined Gap in 2006 and took over as head of the Old Navy brand in 2008, helping prepare the retail chain to expand outside the U.S. Gap is planning to open Old Navy stores in Japan.

Wyatt, 56, is leaving to become the CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Knowledge Universe, a childhood education company.

“This was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make,” Wyatt said in a statement. “An opportunity came my way that allows me to devote myself to helping children get the education they deserve. Working with the strong leadership team at Old Navy, I’m both proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past four years and confident in the plans in place to improve the brand’s performance in 2012 and beyond.”

Gap appointed Nancy Green, executive vice president and chief creative officer for Old Navy, and Tom Sands, the executive vice president of stores and operations for Old Navy, to handle Wyatt’s duties in the meantime.

Gap, based in San Francisco, owns the Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta brands as well as Old Navy and its namesake stores.

However, Gap also had good news on its talent front. Tracy Gardner, a former J. Crew executive and Gap merchandising veteran, will join the company as an adviser starting Monday, said Gap spokeswoman Louise Callagy. Gardner, who worked at Gap and Banana Republic in the late 1990s and early 2000s, will help guide the company’s women’s clothing and other products.

Gap has reshuffled a number of managers in the past few years as it tried to refresh the brand. It has been looking for a replacement for the head of its Gap design business since Patrick Robinson was ousted in May last year. Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said Gap “could significantly benefit from Gardner’s input.”

Shares of the company rose 73 cents, nearly 4 percent, to close at $19.37 on Thursday.

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