LOS ANGELES — In an effort to improve operations and customer service at its Old Navy division, Gap Inc. said Tuesday Tom Sands has been promoted to executive vice president of Old Navy stores and operations.

Sands, 42, was most recently senior vice president of Old Navy stores, responsible for the western and central regions. Sands joined Old Navy in October 2002, after a 20-year career at Target where he was most recently senior vice president of store operations. The promotion expands his responsibilities to include the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country, which were previously handled by Brian Lynch, also a senior vice president.

Lynch, 45, has been named senior vice president of stores and operations for Gap Inc. Outlet. He replaces Steve Stickel, who moved to Banana Republic as senior vice president of stores in February.

“We split the store operations responsibilities for Old Navy because we felt that one leader across the entire store operations made sense,” said a Gap spokeswoman.

Old Navy president Jenny Ming recently outlined her 2003 primary objectives to a group of Wall Street analysts. They include improving the shopping experience and raising the level of customer service at stores. Other initiatives are to refine the brand’s position as a value player, expand product offerings and fine tune existing categories, as well as improving the division’s success with single-item trends.

Old Navy has enjoyed a four-month streak of positive same-store sales increases. April comp-store sales were up 20 percent after advancing 17 percent in March, 8 percent in February and 27 percent in January. For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002, Old Navy’s comp-store sales rose 14 percent. Total sales in 2002 were $5.8 billion, up from $5.1 billion in 2001. Gap Inc. does not disclose net income for any of its divisions under the Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic banners.

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