Gap Inc. on Tuesday announced that Mark Breitbard will return to the organization in May to serve as president and chief executive officer of its Banana Republic brand, reporting to Gap CEO Art Peck.
Prior to serving as CEO at children’s specialty apparel company The Gymboree Corporation from 2013 until early 2017, Breitbard held leadership positions across Gap North America, and from 2009 to early 2010 tenured as chief merchandising and creative officer of the company’s Old Navy brand. Breitbard has also worked at Levi Strauss & Co. and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Longtime Banana Republic chief Andi Owen left late last month as the brand has continued in freefall: U.S. sales have fallen 16% over the last three years, and the company last year shuttered all of its U.K. stores.
Banana Republic has in recent months demonstrated some ability to improve its merchandising and its marketing, highlighted by collaborations with fashion maven Olivia Palermo and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Kevin Love. But the brand needs more than incremental improvements, and Peck made it clear with the announcement of Owen’s departure that it was time for a change.
Peck has since led Banana Republic himself in an effort to assess all its needs, and will continue in that role until Breitbard takes over in May, the company said Tuesday. “Mark brings significant retail leadership experience to Gap Inc., along with deep knowledge of the company and our customer,” Peck said in a statement. “We know what Banana Republic is capable of, and Mark’s ability to drive transformation and innovation will help revitalize the brand and position it to achieve its long-term potential.”
In a statement Tuesday, Breitbard said the brand is poised to “differentiate itself with optimized product and customer experiences.”
Gap Inc. last month reported that fourth quarter profits increased 3% to $220 million, with sales rising 1% to $4.43 billion. Same-store sales were up 2%, compared with a decline of 7% in the same period last year, and same-store sales for the year fell 2%, compared with a decline of 4% last year. But while the flagship Gap brand showed signs of life for the first time in many quarters, with Q4 same-store sales falling 3% globally compared to last year’s 6% decline, and Old Navy same-store sales up 1% compared to flat numbers last year, Banana Republic remained the weak link in the chain, although same-store sales fell 7% compared to a 10% decline in the year-ago quarter.
“Banana Republic is still sinking,” GlobalData Retail analyst Carter Harrison wrote in a note emailed to Retail Dive. “This is a brand that has simply lost its voice and is not being heard by consumers in a market that is full of clamorous, and more melodious, rivals."