By  on March 3, 2005

NEW YORK — Ann Taylor Stores Corp. has promoted two insiders to top-level product jobs, completing new management structures at the divisions.

At the Ann Taylor Stores division, Adrienne Lazarus was named executive vice president of merchandising and design. Donna Noce was promoted to the same position at Ann Taylor Loft. Both report to Kay Krill, president of Ann Taylor Stores Corp.

These and other key personnel changes recently come with efforts to lift the performance at Ann Taylor Stores, help redefine its customer and differentiate the brand from the sister Ann Taylor Loft brand. While Loft has shown consistently strong performances, Ann Taylor has been a drain on profits and sales growth.

Krill, considered the force behind the rise of Ann Taylor Loft, was bumped up in November to president of the corporation, from president of Ann Taylor Loft. Debra Berit was promoted to executive vice president of planning and allocation for both divisions.

Last January, Jerome Jessup resigned as executive vice president of the Ann Taylor Stores, but on Monday, Muriel Gonzalez, a former senior executive at Bergdorf Goodman, joins as executive vice president and chief marketing officer, a new position encompassing both divisions.

“Basically, these are new positions in the organization to support and drive the overall business,’’ Krill said in an interview on the promotions of Lazarus and Noce, who she called “product leaders” for their respective divisions. “There will not be a division head for each brand, like I was, or like Jerome was.”

There are also two leaders over the store organizations, Brian Lynch, senior vice president at Ann Taylor Stores, and Michele Patton, senior vice president at Ann Taylor Loft.

“This is a new structure,” Krill said. “It really allows me to lead both divisions in a more hands-on way, which is what the business needs. Nobody is leaving and we are done” with the reorganizing.

Lazarus joined the Ann Taylor Stores brand in 1991 as an assistant merchant, switched to Loft as a merchandising manager and rose to senior vice president and general merchandise manager. In October 2004, she assumed that role at Ann Taylor Stores.Noce joined the company in 1996 as a merchandising vice president of separates, dresses and suits for Ann Taylor Stores. Four years later, she became vice president of merchandising and planning for, which she developed. In 2002, she shifted to Ann Taylor Factory Stores, overseeing the merchandising, planning, store planning, visual merchandising and store operations, and eventually rising to senior vice president.

J. Patrick Spainhour, chairman and chief executive officer of the corporation, will take over Noce’s factory store duties until her successor is found. He remains under pressure to reverse the retailer’s fortunes.

The corporation has forecast a fourth-quarter loss of 14 to 18 cents a diluted share compared with previous guidance of breakeven to a loss of 4 cents. For the year, earnings per share are projected to fall between 89 and 93 cents on a diluted basis compared with previous estimates of $1.04 to $1.08.

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