Jeff Kirwan, president and CEO of Gap brand, will leave the company, Gap Inc. announced on Tuesday.
Kirwan had led Gap’s Chinese expansion and replaced Stephen Sunnucks in 2014 to head the Gap brand, around when Art Peck took over as CEO from Glenn Murphy. (Murphy is now at Lululemon and recently took on an expanded role there as executive chairman after the ouster in recent weeks of CEO Laurent Potdevin.)
While a search is underway for Kirwan's replacement, Gap Inc. Executive Vice President of Global Talent and Sustainability Brent Hyder will oversee the brand, the company said in a press release. Hyder was previously the brand’s chief operating officer and also served as vice president and general manager of Gap Japan K.K., leading all aspects of Gap Inc.’s business in Japan, according to the release.
With a new growth strategy unveiled last summer, Gap Inc. acknowledged the Old Navy brand's strength — and Gap's weaknesses.
At the Goldman Sachs 24th Annual Global Retailing Conference, the company announced that Old Navy (along with its much smaller athleisure brand, Athleta), would underpin a campaign for "long-term, balanced growth."
Also last year, the company acquired bridal brand Weddington Way and is opening its first Boston-area boutique inside the Natick Mall Banana Republic store, according to the Boston Globe. The company hopes to capture an affinity for the Gap brand as young brides turn to the new wedding line and its customer-centric approach, according to the report.
Kirwan oversaw major improvements in Gap's operations, Peck said in a statement, adding that two agreed that it's time for new leadership for the brand's next phase of development. "We are faster and more responsive than ever before, we radically improved quality and fit, and we centered the brand on the aesthetic that our customers love: casual, optimistic and American," he said. "We have also seen the results of exceptional marketing and customer engagement reflected in increased traffic, improved sales and the strength of the digital business."
Over the last several years, the Gap brand has attempted several fashion reboots, but misfired a number of times, bringing in and firing a series of designers and creative directors. That all culminated in an attempt four years ago to double down on essentially style-less "normcore" at a time when fast fashion was cleaning up by knocking off ideas from the haute couture runway.
Meanwhile, Old Navy kept ringing up sales.
It's not too late for Gap, however, according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders. "Gap isn’t really broken, it’s just not really well cared for," he said in an interview with Retail Dive last year. "There needs more effort in terms of range and product and more force in terms of marketing."