NEW YORK — Donna Noce, president of AnnTaylor Corp.’s underperforming Loft division, has resigned, the company said Monday. Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer of Ann Taylor Stores, will assume leadership of Loft during the search for a new divisional president.

Problems have been evident at Loft for months. The division recorded same-store sales of minus 1 percent in August, minus 1.4 percent in September, minus 3.4 percent in October, minus 7.7 percent in November and minus 8.1 percent last month.

Sales for the holiday period suffered because Loft invested too heavily in heavy sweaters. “The [warm] weather was a problem for most misses’ apparel retailers, but Loft also had a fashion miss on the sweaters,” said Harry Ikenson, a retail analyst at Soleil Securities.

Gabrielle Kivitz, senior retail analyst, Deutsche Bank, said, “The Loft has been a real issue this last quarter. They talked about a miss with sweaters, but if you ask me, that’s a simplification. They didn’t adhere to the fashion — period.”

Krill knows the Loft business as well as anyone. She joined Ann Taylor in 1994 and was chief of the Loft management team.

“I am confident that my partnership with the Loft team while our search for new leadership is conducted is the right course of action for the company at this time,” Krill said. “We appreciate the many contributions Donna has made over the years and wish her all the best.”

Noce, who worked for the company for 10 years, was appointed division president in June. She couldn’t be reached for comment.

Loft has been continuing its expansion. In November, the company opened a 10,000-square-foot Loft flagship on 42nd Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.

“Loft hasn’t announced any change in plans,” Ikenson said. “In our view, it doesn’t seem like there’s less consumer demand for what Loft offers when the fashion is trend-right.”

Krill started spending more time with Loft in November, said Maria Sceppaguercio, senior vice president of communications and investor relations at Ann Taylor Stores. “She probably will have some impact on early spring, which arrives in February,” she said.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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