Jerome Jessup, senior executive vice president in charge of merchandise and design at women's apparel chain Ann Taylor Stores Corporation, has left the company after less than two years in the job in order to follow other interests.

Jessop, who joined Ann Taylor from retail giant Gap in April 2003, is one in a succession of executives to quit the company over the past four years.

Ann Taylor's chairman, J Patrick Spainhour, said that Kay Krill, president of Ann Taylor, will take on the responsibilities previously carried out by Jessop until a permanent replacement can be found.

Ann Taylor, which operates 740 stores throughout the US, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, saw sales slump 7.4 per cent during December 2004 compared with last year.