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Gap Brand Taps Hillman For Merchandising Post

Gap Inc. is going to the bench to help climb out of its merchandising hole.

Gap Inc. is going to the bench to help climb out of its merchandising hole.

WWD has learned that Karyn Hillman, senior vice president of apparel merchandising for the Banana Republic division, has been promoted to senior vice president of merchandising for the Gap Adult unit of the flagship Gap Brand, which has been struggling. The position had been open for several seasons. Hillman held merchandise jobs at Gap Brand from 1991 until 2001, when she shifted to Banana Republic.

Succeeding her at Banana Republic is Jack Calhoun, who expands his role to become executive vice president of merchandising and marketing. He was executive vice president of marketing and supervised some non-apparel categories as well.

In addition, Nick Coe is being promoted to senior vice president of all merchandising for Banana Republic, reporting to Calhoun. Coe was Banana Republic’s vice president of men’s.

There has been a rush of executive changes at Gap Inc. over the last few seasons. To fill the executive vacancies, Paul Pressler, Gap Inc.’s president and chief executive officer, has generally tapped outsiders. Earlier this year, for example, he hired Liz Claiborne veteran Denise Johnston to be president of Gap Adult, overseeing all aspects of Gap women’s and men’s apparel and accessories. She reports to Cynthia Harriss, president of Gap Brand since April 2005 and former president of the Disneyland Resort division of the Walt Disney Co.

The latest change appears to reflect new thinking on team building and seeing the potential of certain insiders with knowledge of the brand’s DNA, and possibly some succession planning down the road. Other key players at Gap Brand are Pamela Wallack, president of GapKids, babyGap and Gap Maternity, and Tom Wyatt, president of GapBody. Lisa Salamonie continues as a consultant to Johnston on the Gap Adult business.

At the highest rung, there has been speculation about the fate of Pressler, whose contract expires next fall. There is no clear candidate within Gap to succeed him if he leaves the company. At this point, Pressler’s turnaround efforts have not been successful. The $16 billion Gap has been grappling with poor results, leading to executive departures and a resolve to improve product and step up recruitings.

For the nine-month period, earnings were down 27.9 percent, to $559 million, from $775 million in last year’s period. Sales were down slightly, to $11.01 billion from $11.2 billion. While the Gap and Old Navy divisions have shown comp-store declines this year, Banana has been demonstrating single-digit gains.