The longest-serving officer at The Talbots Inc. is calling it quits.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Michele Mandell, executive vice president of stores for the Talbots brand since 2004 and a 26-year veteran of the firm, has opted to take early retirement and will leave the company at the end of the week.

A Pittsburgh native who maintained residences there and near Talbots’ offices in Hingham, Mass., Mandell joined the company as a store manager in 1983 and became district manager the following year and regional director in 1985. She’d served as senior vice president of stores for 11 years before her 2003 promotion to executive vice president of stores and the now-defunct Talbots Kids division.

A spokesman for Talbots said a “succession plan is actively under way and Michele will stay on to help with the transition of her responsibilities.”

Although figures for 2008 aren’t yet available, Mandell in 2007 earned $426,000 in salary and total compensation of $1.7 million. She was 60 when Talbots filed its annual report and definitive proxy with the Securities and Exchange Commission last April and, being over 55 with more than 10 years of vesting service, was eligible for more than $1.6 million in accumulated benefits from the company’s pension plan and supplemental retirement plan.

She also held more than 613,000 shares, including those subject to options, as of last April. Talbots shares closed Tuesday at $2.98, up 10 cents, or 3.5 percent. They closed at $7.74 on April 25, when the definitive proxy was filed.

Struggling to strengthen its assortments even as it looks to cut overhead and bolster its balance sheet under chief executive officer Trudy F. Sullivan, the firm last month said it would eliminate about 370 jobs, close 20 stores and discontinue matching payments to employees’ 401(k) plans. Concomitantly, it received $200 million in financing from its majority shareholder, Aeon Co. Ltd.