The turnover at Gap Inc. goes on.
In another round of high-level executive changes aimed at reviving the long-ailing Gap brand, Rebekka Bay, executive vice president and creative director of Gap brand, has left the company, and the position she held is being eliminated.
Gap Inc. veteran Scott Key has been named senior vice president and general manager of customer experience at the Gap brand. He will oversee a newly combined e-commerce and marketing organization, in an effort to make Gap more customer-centric, officials said. Key served in senior roles within the growth, innovation and digital division of Gap Inc. and has worked closely with incoming chief executive officer Art Peck, who starts next month. Most recently, Key oversaw the company’s customer engagement marketing function.
In addition, Lex Gemas was named head of global product operations, joining production and inventory management across all channels in an effort to build a more agile product pipeline. Gemas has more than 25 years of experience in fashion and retail, most recently serving as chief operating officer of Delia’s, and before that holding jobs at Esprit, Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Gap and Banana Republic.
Last week, Gap Inc. said its Piperlime Web site and store would shut down by the end of the first quarter of fiscal-year 2015. The store is at 121 Wooster Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
In October, Gap disclosed that Peck would succeed Glenn Murphy, and in November, Peck orchestrated a management shake-up, naming Jeff Kirwan global president for the Gap brand and Andi Owen global president for Banana Republic. For years, Gap has struggled to reclaim its relevancy. Bay’s appointment at Gap in September 2012 reflected efforts to give the brand a fresh identity and stronger voice, but raised eyebrows because of her background as a designer at H&M and her Scandinavian aesthetic. It seemed at odds with Gap’s all-American casual image. She had a big role, being tasked with developing the vision for the entire Gap brand, including working on the marketing and communications, and, as executive vice president, global responsibility for Gap women’s, men’s, 1969, accessories and body lines. She succeeded the more gregarious Patrick Robinson, who was the chief designer of Gap brand, but held less expansive responsibilities.
According to a report from UBS Securities, Bay’s departure is not a surprise, given Gap’s comps in 2014. “The reality is that there could be little improvement through fall. Major changes to fit, silhouette, coloration as well as more feminine styling are what’s needed most, but won’t be fully impacted until holiday and beyond, given the timing of Bay’s departure.” UBS said Kirwan, working with Michelle DeMartini, the senior vice president of global merchandising, as well as easy sales comparisons to a year ago and potentially leaner inventories, could buffer against a first-half downside.
Gap, in a statement, said it has a strong senior design team, ensuring a seamless transition with the departure of Bay and that it would evaluate the long-term leadership approach for the global design team.
“I would personally like to thank Rebekka for her passion and the creative processes she’s brought to the brand,” said Kirwan. “She has helped develop a dynamic design team, some of the best creative talent in the industry, and I’m confident that our strong bench of senior designers will see the brand into its next phase.
“Now’s the time to intensify our customer focus and break-through with a truly dynamic and integrated approach to building relationships with our customers,” said Kirwan on Thursday. “Scott will help us bring together our marketing and digital expressions so each interaction with our customers is consistent and compelling. It’s a customer-first approach that reflects how people shop today.”
Kirwan concluded, “As we look to the future, now is the right time to make these changes and focus the brand on delivering casual, American style and building strong relationships with our customers around the world.” Gap Inc. operates Old Navy, Athleta and Intermix as well as Gap, Banana Republic and Piperlime.