NEW YORK — Kay Krill, the driving force behind the success of Ann Taylor Loft, has been promoted to president of the parent Ann Taylor Stores Corp.
Now the 49-year-old Krill will also be steering the Ann Taylor Stores division — which, while showing some improved fashion looks recently, hasn’t performed well in years — and Ann Taylor Factory Stores. In addition, Krill will oversee the marketing across divisions, and was appointed a member of the board.
“I will be very involved in Ann Taylor Stores and all aspects of product design, merchandising, stores and marketing,” Krill said. She added that Jerome Jessup, who has been leading the division as senior executive vice president of merchandise and design, will still be involved in product and marketing, and will report to her.
“Over the last year, we have tried to upgrade the fashion piece” at Ann Taylor Stores, Krill said. “We have more looks, but we’ve got to get that wardrobing sensibility back into our base of updated classics.”
As far as other strategies for improving Ann Taylor Stores, “There is a great opportunity for a more elevated casual component,” Krill said. She also said Ann Taylor’s assortments could be better tailored to the tastes of customers in different regions and climates, and needs to “maximize product flow — a trait that has been central to the success at Loft — in order to refresh stores more frequently and enhance the newness of our offerings.”
The marketing across the divisions needs to be more “accessible and approachable,” Krill said, criticizing the company’s 50th anniversary campaign this year. It featured top models and “did not reflect the lifestyle of how our customer lives or how she looks.”
The company hasn’t had a corporate president since 1996, when the position was eliminated due to formation of divisions. However, the growth of Loft and problems at Ann Taylor Stores motivated the corporation to reinstate that level of management.
“Over the nine years that Kate has been with Loft, she has over-delivered expectations of bringing the division to that billion-dollar type of run rate,” said J. Patrick Spainhour, chairman and chief executive of the corporation. “Loft may not record a billion dollars next year, but it will be pretty darn close.”He also said Krill built a strong team at Loft, enabling the company to promote Krill “to where we can leverage her talents and expertise across all of our businesses.” However, the company is searching for her successor at Loft, where she was president. Krill will continue to directly supervise Loft until her successor is determined.
The company will end this year with 350 Loft units, 360 Ann Taylor units and about 36 factory outlets. Next year, 75 Lofts, 15 Ann Taylors and 15 outlets are slated to open.
Krill joined the corporation in 1994 as merchandising vice president of separates, suits, dresses and petites at Ann Taylor Stores. In 1996, Loft became a stand-alone concept and Krill started leading the division’s management team as executive vice president. She became president of Loft in 2001. Prior to Ann Taylor, Krill was executive vice president of women’s operations at Hartmarx Corp., president of Carroll Reed and at Talbots for nine years.
Loft overtook Ann Taylor Stores in sales this year, and has experienced 19 months of positive comp-store gains. In the third quarter ended Oct. 30, Loft generated revenues of $215.5 million, while Ann Taylor posted $199.6 million in sales.
Ann Taylor has 727 stores. Last year, earnings rose 25.9 percent to $100.9 million. Sales rose 15 percent to $1.59 billion, with comps up 5.3 percent, including $867.9 million for Ann Taylor and $588.8 million for Loft. Comparable store sales by division were up 3.2 percent for Ann Taylor and up 9.4 percent for Loft.
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