Gap Appoints Online President

Gap ceo Paul Pressler has recruited another former Disney colleague, Toby Lenk, to head Gap’s online businesses as president of Gap Inc. Direct.

NEW YORK — Gap chief executive officer Paul Pressler has recruited another former Disney colleague, Toby Lenk, to head Gap’s online businesses as president of Gap Inc. Direct.

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Lenk was ceo and founder of eToys, an Internet-based retailer that grew to around $200 million in sales, but started to flounder and was sold to KB Toys in May 2001. Prior to that, Lenk was vice president of corporate strategic planning for The Walt Disney Co. Most recently, he has been pursuing venture-capital opportunities.

Two other recent Gap recruits, chief financial officer Byron Pollitt and executive vice president of human resources Eva Sage-Gavin, also held senior posts at Disney during their careers, although Gap said that Sage-Gavin didn’t actually work with Pressler.

While periodically adding some new executives since becoming ceo in September 2002, Pressler is not expected to totally overhaul the ranks. It’s more a case of filling vacancies or additions to support the team. Just this past Wednesday, Pressler named Jack Calhoun as executive vice president of marketing for Banana Republic, filling another vacancy.

According to Hal Reiter, ceo of Herbert Mines Associates, an executive search firm that has worked for Gap: “Paul is bringing on some people he knows very well and feels he can trust. We see this happening all the time in retail — new ceo’s bringing in former associates. But at the Gap, I don’t expect to see many more changes at the senior level.”

Lenk will oversee the online businesses for Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy divisions, as well as the company’s customer call center and online distribution operations located near Columbus, Ohio, and report to Pressler. He will also be a member of the executive leadership team.

Lenk succeeds Michael Tucci, who recently joined Coach as president of its North American retail division. At Gap, Tucci held the title of executive vice president.

“Toby’s intimate knowledge of online retailing will be a tremendous asset as we leverage our growing online businesses to serve our customers and provide a seamless and integrated shopping experience with our stores,” Pressler said in a statement. “His entrepreneurial style and strong operational and strategic planning experience will enable us to continue driving innovation and leadership in online apparel retailing.”

The $14.5 billion Gap launched its online operations in 1997. They have been among the most successful on the Internet, primarily because the Web sites are known for their relatively advanced technology and support of stores. The company does not disclose online sales volumes, but a spokeswoman said that the online operations are profitable.

In February, Old Navy received 2,240,000 hits, and Gap, 2,238,000 hits, both ahead of other popular specialty Web sites such as Nike, Frederick’s of Hollywood, American Eagle Outfitters and L.L. Bean, but behind Limited Brands and Footlocker, according to comScore Networks, an online market research firm.

Gap utilizes its Web sites as testing grounds for new products that could eventually be sold in the stores, although generally the online and store experiences for each brand under the Gap umbrella are closely integrated. For example, maternity wear was first sold online, but is now also sold at Old Navy and Gap stores. However, petites are currently sold at Banana Republic online, but could one day be sold at Banana Republic stores, too.

Todd Slater, a retail analyst with Lazard Frères, said Gap’s Internet business, like most brick-and-mortar retailers, is relatively a small piece of the pie, representing the size of a large store in terms of revenues. Still, he said the Web site is an important point of communication with customers, helping illustrate Gap’s positioning, and helping people find stores.