NEW YORK -- Howard Gross resigned Tuesday as president of Limited Stores, the weakest division of The Limited Inc., and corporate vice chairman Michael A. Weiss was named acting president.
It is now up to Weiss, the company's star merchant, to turn around the division, a $1.1 billion business that has been troubled by merchandising woes for the last three years.
Gross will join Today's Man, a men's wear chain, on Monday as president and chief operating officer.
A successor to Gross is being sought, and it's likely to be an insider, based on the company's record of promoting from within.
In the meantime, Weiss shifts from his supervisory role over Limited Stores to a hands-on position. He will be on the next trip to the Orient in April, working with the merchandising team to shape fall assortments, the company said. That, said Weiss in a statement Tuesday announcing the changes, is the "immediate focus."
As vice chairman, Weiss has been supervising Limited Stores, Lerner New York, Express, Structure, Limited Too and Henri Bendel.
Last December, Weiss said in an interview in WWD that he expects "real improvement" at Limited Stores this spring. Apparently, that timetable has shifted. Weiss could not be reached for elaboration on his statement.
"I had a tougher time than I expected," Gross said Tuesday, reflecting on his stint at Limited Stores. "It's much easier to take a business and grow it than to rebuild a mature business."
After three difficult years as president of Limited Stores, Gross's resignation came as no surprise, but his appointment to the 22-unit Today's Man may have, considering that his experience is in women's merchandising.
"I intend to be a thorough student [of men's wear] starting Monday," said Gross. "I'm excited about it. When I started at Victoria's Secret, I didn't know anything about lingerie."
Robert Kerson, the executive search consultant who placed Gross at Today's Man, said, "You can not discount the 20 years of success Gross had at The Limited through intense growth periods. That's worth a lot for Today's Man, which is moving through a growth period. Under his leadership, Victoria's Secret moved from a handful of stores to become a dominant chain."
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