The shortage of top retail talent in the US could well be reflected in the appointment of a European chief executive at Eddie Bauer Inc.

According to a report in The New York Times, the struggling retailer is thought to be close to naming Fabian Mansson, a former chief executive of the Swedish retailer H&M Hennes & Maurtiz, to the post.

A spokeswoman for Eddie Bauer yesterday confirmed Mansson, 38, was "our leading candidate." Since leaving H&M in 2000, Mansson has been working as an independent consultant.

Sales at Eddie Bauer fell 9 per cent in 2001, down to $1.6 billion from $1.75 million a year earlier. yesterday reported that Gap Inc is also having difficulties in finding its new chief executive as well as a new president of its Gap division.