LOS ANGELES — Gap Inc. announced on Thursday the promotion of senior merchants Julie Rosen and Sheryl Clark to the new positions of executive vice president merchandising for Gap Brand and executive vice president of merchandising for Old Navy, respectively.

The effort to streamline the merchandising divisions comes after a report last week from Merrill Lynch analyst Mark Friedman downgrading the Gap’s rating to neutral from buy amid concerns about recent lackluster fall sales trends and what he described as an “uninspiring product assortment for fall.’’

Rosen, 39, a 13-year veteran of Gap Inc., had been senior vice president for Gap Adult, Gap Accessories and Gap Body, and will oversee merchandising for all Gap brand concepts for its U.S. division. Clark, 38, who has been with the company 11 years, was named senior vice president of merchandising for Old Navy in 2002 and will be responsible for merchandising for all aspects of Old Navy’s business.

“Now we’ve got one central merchandising executive to help align merchandising with market and design, which have a similar organizational structure,” said Gap spokeswoman Jordan Benjamin.

“Everything is now being put through the filter of how can we better serve our customers,” Benjamin said. But there are no plans to change any of the merchandising strategies.

Gap shares were the most heavily traded on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday after the company reported a narrower-than-expected decline in August same-store sales.

The San-Francisco-based retailer generated $15.9 billion in revenue in fiscal 2003 and has made healthy strides in its performance the past 22 months under chief executive officer Paul Pressler.

This story first appeared in the September 3, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.