Gap Hires H&M Global Sales Head to Lead Old Navy Amid Expansion

Gap Inc. hired Stefan Larsson, the former head of global sales at Hennes & Mauritz AB, to lead Old Navy as the largest U.S. apparel chain prepares to take the division overseas in July.

Larsson, 37, will start as Old Navy’s first global brand president by October as he moves his family from Europe to San Francisco, where Gap is headquartered, Edie Kissko, a Gap spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. Gap plans to open an Old Navy store in Japan this July, its first outside North America, according to a statement today.

Gap is seeking to revamp Old Navy, introduced as the company’s value-oriented brand in 1994, after sales at the unit declined last year amid higher cotton prices and a failed marketing campaign. Gap hired Jill Stanton, the former vice president of global apparel at Nike Inc., as creative adviser for Old Navy earlier this year, another reflection of the brand’s international ambitions.

“We were really looking for someone who had experience in the apparel sector and the value sector and how to perform on the global stage, so Stefan really fits the bill,” Kissko said. Larsson led the introduction of H&M stores on the West Coast, living in San Francisco about seven years ago, so he’s familiar with the area, she said.

Larsson will replace Tom Wyatt, the division’s brand president for more than three years.

“Stefan is a rising star within apparel retail, with proven experience in the value sector,” Gap Chief Executive Officer Glenn Murphy said in today’s statement. “He’s tackled some of the most complex challenges in our industry and has a deep appreciation for the need to balance great product and operational excellence.”

Same-store sales at Old Navy rose 8 percent in March and 4 percent in February, reversing declines in the same periods last year, according to the company’s website. Gap is set to report comparable store sales for April on May 3.

Old Navy generated $5.7 billion of sales in fiscal 2011, a 4 percent decline from the previous year, according to the company’s annual report.

Since Larsson’s joined Stockholm-based H&M in 1998, the company’s operations grew from 12 countries to 44, and revenue expanded to $17 billion from $3 billion.

Gap’s shares have soared 54 percent this year to $28.50 at close in New York today. The stock ended at $28.53 on April 27, the highest since July 2001.

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