Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — After a three-month search, Ann Taylor Stores Corp. is reportedly close to naming a president for its Ann Taylor division. The company is also narrowing the field of contenders for president of its fast-growing and lower priced Loft division.
In both cases, the president would serve as the chief merchant of the division, each reporting to J. Patrick Spainhour, chairman and chief executive officer.
According to one source, a top contender for the Ann Taylor chain is Kim Roy, a Liz Claiborne group president over the casual division, including such lines as Lizwear and Liz & Co. But there could still be others in the running.
Ann Taylor is in need of strong product leadership, and Roy would fit the bill. Since joining Ann Taylor about six years ago, from the former Associated Merchandising Corp., Roy has compiled an impressive record of product development and fashion, and wide experience across several categories. Prior to shifting to the Claiborne’s casual business, Roy oversaw accessories and special markets. She joined Claiborne as a vice president of merchandising, working with the core lines.
Ann Taylor has been interviewing plenty of candidates in the market, including other Claiborne executives and former executives such as Denise Seegal, who reportedly prefers other options.
Since the departure last January of Patricia DeRosa, who was president and chief operating officer and served as chief merchant over both Ann Taylor divisions, Spainhour has been filling in as chief merchant, though he is widely regarded as an operations and financial executive.
Last year, the company reported negative comps and several fashion misfires. Income dropped to $52.4 million from $64.5 million the year before.
Ann Taylor officials expect business to improve in the second half, as the fashion returns to a more classic Ann Taylor look and a reduced emphasis on eveningwear.
Claiborne, meanwhile, has been hot on the pursuit of an acquisition. It has stated that it is exploring four arenas: men’s wear, accessories, specialty retail and international. Speculation has been widespread.