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Christine Beauchamp to Head Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor replaces Adrienne Lazarus as president.

Christine Beauchamp has again taken the path from consultant to president.

Repeating the pattern she followed at Limited Brands Inc. earlier in her career, Beauchamp, a strategic consultant to AnnTaylor Stores Corp. since earlier this year, has been named president of the company’s Ann Taylor division. She succeeds Adrienne Lazarus, who’s left the firm after 17 years, the last two at the helm of the Ann Taylor division.

Beauchamp is an alumnus of the retail practice of the Boston Consulting Group. She advised Leslie Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of Limited Brands, on growth strategies for Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, as well as the Express division, since divested, before joining the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer as senior vice president of commercialization in 2003. She later became president and general merchandise manager of Victoria’s Secret Beauty before being named president and ceo of the unit in May 2006. She was succeeded in that role by Shashi Batra.

In her new post, Beauchamp reports to Kay Krill, president and ceo of Ann Taylor.

The company raised second-quarter guidance Tuesday in advance of its Aug. 22 reporting date. However, in its first quarter, net income dropped 17.7 percent, to $25.9 million, on a 2 percent increase in sales, to $591.7 million, that included an 11.5 percent drop in same-store sales at the Ann Taylor division. Loft same-store sales eked out a 0.7 percent gain. The corporation’s current expansion plans center on Loft and its outlet stores.

“This transition of leadership at our heritage brand is taking place at an exciting time of evolution for Ann Taylor,” Krill said. “I am delighted that Christine, a seasoned retail executive and valued partner to me over the last several months, will be assuming the leadership of our Ann Taylor Stores division. She has a deep understanding of our brand and customer base and will move seamlessly into this critical role.”

Although Ann Taylor is the company’s namesake brand, it is not its largest. That distinction belongs to Ann Taylor Loft, which, as of the May 3 conclusion of the company’s first quarter, operated 513 units with a total of 3 million square feet. Ann Taylor’s 347 stores occupied 1.9 million square feet, while the 81 outlet stores accounted for about 600,000 square feet. During the fiscal year ended last February, Ann Taylor generated $866.6 million in sales, 36.2 percent of total group revenues of $2.4 billion, versus $1.17 billion, or 49 percent, at Loft. Ann Taylor was responsible for a much higher average unit retail price — $44.57 against $28 — but sales per square foot were closer — $465 for Ann Taylor against $406 at Loft, according to the company’s annual report.

The company doesn’t break down operating income or margins by division.

Krill said Tuesday that “our conservative approach to managing the business in this difficult consumer environment” would help the company produce second-quarter earnings higher than the range of 42 to 47 cents previously provided. Analysts on average had expected 45 cents for the quarter, according to Yahoo Finance.

Krill continued, “Notwithstanding our better-than-expected results for the first half, we are maintaining our outlook for diluted EPS for the year in the range of $1.80 to $1.90, as the macroeconomic environment remains very weak and uncertain and traffic levels continue to be challenging.”

Shares of AnnTaylor finished Tuesday’s New York Stock Exchange session at $25.85, down 15 cents, or 0.6 percent, during a day when retail shares gave back some of the gains they’d picked up on Monday.

AnnTaylor Stores Corp. currently operates 941 stores.