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(Updates with Athleta openings in sixth paragraph.)
Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Gap Inc., the largest U.S. specialty apparel chain, rose the most in more than three months after bringing back former executive Tracy Gardner as an adviser to help develop the company’s women’s merchandise.
The shares climbed 2.9 percent to $19.18 at 3:07 p.m. in New York, after earlier increasing as much as 5.5 percent for the biggest intraday gain since Sept. 26. San Francisco-based Gap dropped 16 percent last year.
Gardner, who left Gap in 2004 for J. Crew Group, will be working as an adviser at the company’s creative center in New York in an attempt to turn around its women’s business. Gap’s December same-store sales declined 4 percent, more than the average estimate for a 1.3 percent drop from analysts surveyed by researcher Retail Metrics Inc.
“Gardner was at Gap at a time when things were going better than they are now,” Dorothy Lakner, an analyst at Caris & Co. in New York, said in a telephone interview. “She was widely regarded as having a hand in the past success of both Gap and J. Crew.”
Gardner will begin work for the company on Jan. 23, Liz Nunan, a spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview.
Separately, the company’s Athleta athletic apparel line for women plans to open stores in Chicago, Boston, Houston and Denver in 2012, Scott Key, senior vice president and general manager, said today in a telephone interview.
Key reiterated the company’s plan to expand to more than 50 Athleta stores by the end of 2013. Athleta opened stores in San Francisco, New York and Washington in 2011.
Athleta’s 13 years of experience as a catalog and online retailer gave the company insight into where customers were, Key said. Athleta was acquired by Gap in 2008.
“As we go about our real estate expansion, we look at where our customers live,” Key said. “We have a real advantage as a catalog and online business in determining that.”
Gap plans to reduce its North American namesake stores to about 700 by the end of 2013, a 34 percent drop from the end of 2007, Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Simmons said in an October 2011 investor meeting in New York.
--Editors: Kevin Orland, James Callan
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