BOSTON — Kmart has tapped another former Gap executive in its quest to fill its top management ranks.

John Goodman, 39, will start in January as senior vice president and chief apparel officer, a new position, reporting to Kmart president and chief executive officer Julian Day. Goodman stepped down as the head of Gap Inc.’s outlet division last week, after an 11-year run with the specialty retailer. Gap is looking for his replacement, a spokeswoman confirmed.

At Kmart, Goodman will be back in company with Lisa Schultz, recently hired as the discounter’s senior vice president and chief creative officer and a 14-year Gap veteran herself. One former Gap executive said that Goodman and Schultz did not work closely together in their previous jobs, however.

Kmart also announced Monday it has hired James Donlon as senior vice president and chief financial officer, reporting to Day.

Donlon, formerly senior vice president and controller at Daimler Chrysler Corp., fills a post that’s been vacant since John McDonald left in 2002.

In a statement that referred obliquely to legal woes of some former Kmart executives, Day said Donlon had the “personal integrity to set the appropriate tone at the top we require from our senior management team.”

Goodman’s title — chief apparel officer — puzzled a few observers, who were expecting Kmart to name a chief merchant to lead the company’s total buying operations. The Troy, Mich.-based discounter has been searching for months to fill that role, but Day may have decided to redefine the position when he tapped Goodman.

Specifics on Goodman’s responsibilities, where he will be based, or whether Kmart will still name a chief merchant were unavailable at press time.

Tierney Remick, managing director of Korn/Ferry International’s retail and consumer products practice, said the chief apparel title is “narrower” than a chief merchant title. “It would be consistent with [Goodman’s] background and it would put hardlines — which are a big deal for Kmart — under someone else.”

Remick speculated that if Kmart abandons its quest for a chief merchant and brings in a hard-goods specialist at the same level with Goodman then ceo Day might retain some decision-making power that would normally go to the chief merchant.“That may not be a bad thing,” Remick reflected.

It’s also unclear whether Goodman will work from Manhattan with Schultz in the retailer’s recently leased design offices or whether he’ll be in Troy, Mich., where the buying teams are based. The retailer has yet to release the address of the new Manhattan offices.

Kmart is also looking for a divisional vice president of ladies wear, a post that’s been vacant since Michael Lewis left the company in October.

In a statement, Day commended Goodman on an “outstanding track record of success. His considerable experience and success as an apparel merchant, coupled with the design talents that chief creative officer Lisa Schultz has brought to Kmart, will allow us to provide our customers with the fashion and value they want and deserve.”

As senior vice president at Gap, Goodman oversaw 220 doors comprised of Gap and Old Navy outlet stores and Banana Republic Factory stores, a Gap spokeswoman confirmed.

The San Francisco-based retailer does not break out the volume of its outlet business, but based on the estimates of a former Gap executive, the outlets may be commanding a $3 billion annual volume.

Elaine Hughes, president of executive search firm E.A. Hughes & Co., said by bringing two Gap veterans on board, Kmart is lining up executives who know how to operate and think vertically, taking product from concept to store floor.

“They now have got two senior people who know how to create product and a point of view,” Hughes noted. “That’s the whole issue with Kmart — they need a point-of-view and a reason to be.”

As reported, Schultz, whose background is in product design, has been weeding out Kmart’s apparel assortments and cleaning up the department for a more aesthetically pleasing shopping experience.

With his experience running the outlets, Goodman should bring both analytic and merchandising skills, said Hughes.

“It’s not just about getting rid of merchandise, but developing [new goods] for that outlet concept,” she noted. “There is also an important price-value equation. Consumers need to believe they’re getting something that looks like it was in a Gap store, yet at a cheaper price.”

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