Art Peck Cites Lack of ‘Excellence’ in Jeff Kirwin Exit

The Gap president is leaving after almost 15 years with the brand.

Gap Inc. chief executive officer Art Peck thinks the brand can do better and is replacing president Jeff Kirwin to prove it.

Kirwin is a Gap veteran who joined the company in 2004 from Target Corp. He’s held various executive roles in his nearly 15 years with the brand and became president in 2014. While Peck said Gap under Kirwin’s leadership has improved in a number of areas, including its overall operating model and the quality and fit of its garments, it hasn’t been enough.

“While I am pleased with our progress in brand health and product quality, we have not achieved the operational excellence and accelerated profit growth that we know is possible at Gap brand,” Peck said. “As we move into the brand’s next phase of development, Jeff and I agreed it was an appropriate time for a change in leadership.”

Gap has not yet found a successor, but Brent Hyder, the retailer’s executive vice president of talent and sustainability, will become interim president. Hyder previously served as Gap’s chief operations officer.

A Gap spokeswoman said the company would not be commenting further and Kirwin could not be reached.

Gap has improved over the last year, showing comparable sales up 1 percent during the third quarter, compared to negative 4 percent in the year-ago period, but things have still been rocky. Kirwin’s presidential tenure coincided with broad industry shifts that led to in-store traffic declines and the decision to close at least 200 retaillocations, roughly 25 percent of its fleet, by this year. But Gap was already stalling and suffering form some “self-inflicted” issues before the allure of digital shopping became too overwhelming for retailers to ignore, as Peck acknowledged a few months after being named ceo in 2015.

Since then, recovery at Gap has seemed slow, and even with a relatively positive third quarter, Peck in November said, “We have more work to do, more progress to be made. We’re not celebrating success.”

And leading into the all-important holiday shopping season, Peck said his expectations of brand leaders throughout the company were high, regardless of larger industry trends.

“We’ve got an opportunity to drive growth and gain market share,” he said. “My expectation, frankly, of all my businesses and all my business leaders is that we carry the momentum of this quarter into Q4. And everybody is heads down focused on making that happen right now.”

Kirwin’s exit could be linked to an underwhelming fourth quarter performance at Gap. Jon Langenfeld, a Baird analyst, noted that the company “had the opportunity” to update or offer guidance for the upcoming quarter “and didn’t.”

Langenfeld said the move was “unexpected though not overly surprising given the somewhat slow progress on the brand turnaround,” adding that he’s feeling “more cautious” about the company’s year-end results.

Gap will report fourth-quarter financials on March 1.

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