LOS ANGELES — Gap Inc. on Tuesday named Marka Hansen president of its Banana Republic division, moving quickly to help restore the luster and leadership at its most troubled chain.
Just last month, former Banana Republic president Maureen Chiquet was tapped by Chanel Inc. to succeed Arie Kopelman as president.
A 15-year veteran of Gap, Hansen, 50, most recently served as executive vice president of adult merchandising, leading the turnaround at the company’s flagship Gap brand. However, her roots at the corporation are with Banana Republic, where she started in merchandising, before moving to Gap International as senior vice president of merchandising. The company said there are no plans to replace Hansen’s role at Gap. Tracy Gardner, senior vice president of Gap adult merchandising will report to Gary Muto, president of the Gap division.
In her role as president of the 440-store, $1.9 billion Banana Republic, Hansen inherits the laggard of Gap’s brands. At his first shareholder meeting last month, Gap chief executive Paul Pressler said Banana Republic is continuing to differentiate its product lines. The company is also seeking a head of international operations for Banana Republic.
A Gap spokeswoman said Hansen will focus on such initiatives as elevating the customer experience through improved marketing and service.
“Marka will utilize customer research in developing a better connection between the brand and the customer,” the spokeswoman said. “She will work closely with Deborah Lloyd
[Banana Republic’s executive vice president of design] to make sure styles are reflective of what we need to offer the Banana Republic customer.”
While the San Francisco-based Gap is on the rise overall, the Banana Republic division has posted mixed results in the last four months. April same-store sales were up 11 percent, after declining 5 percent in March and 3 percent in February, and increasing 11 percent in January. For the first quarter ended May 3, Banana Republic’s comparable-store sales were up just 1 percent, compared with Old Navy’s 16 percent boost and Gap’s 12 percent rise.
Overall, Gap Inc., with 3,105 locations, had an impressive first quarter with income skyrocketing 452 percent to $202.5 million, or 22 cents a diluted share, beating Wall Street’s expectations. The firm reported income of $36.7 million, or 4 cents, in the corresponding period last year. Benefiting from stronger products and fewer markdowns, sales for the quarter rose 16 percent to $3.35 billion over $2.89 billion.Analysts said Hansen’s multidivisional background will be an asset to Banana Republic.
“In the past, Gap has operated in a silo format with limited opportunities to share best practices so bringing Marka from the Gap brand where she has affected a turnaround will allow her to share best practices at Banana Republic,” said Adrienne Tennant, retail analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities.
Still, Tennant said Hansen has to deal with a troubled retail climate. “Mall traffic is down and Banana Republic is coming out of a period of relatively easy comps, so the environment remains tough,” she said.
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