Marka Hansen, president of Gap's Banana Republic division, has been named president of the company's Gap North America business, succeeding Cynthia Harriss, who has left the firm.

The move installs a 20-year Gap veteran in place of one of the executives who moved to Gap from Walt Disney Co with Paul Pressler, who was relieved of his responsibilities as Gap's chief executive officer on 22 January. Hansen reports to Robert Fisher, interim president and CEO.

Hansen was named president of Banana Republic in 2003 and has supervised the business at a time when it's been the bright spot in an otherwise lacklustre period for the San Francisco-based company, the largest US-based operator of apparel specialty stores.

She joined Gap in 1987 as a merchandise manager at Banana Republic and became vice president of merchandising for the international division six years later.

She was promoted to senior VP in 1995 and became head of the corporation's human resources operations in 2000. She was named executive VP of Gap adult merchandising in 2002 prior to her appointment at Banana Republic the following year.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to lead the company's flagship brand," Hansen said in a statement. "While there are challenges that lay ahead, with the support of the extremely passionate, talented and committed Gap brand team, I'm confident that together we can reclaim Gap brand's authority in casual apparel."

Fisher lauded her "unique blend of deep merchandising expertise, extensive leadership experience and a real appreciation for the company's culture and creative heritage."

Harriss came to Gap in 2004 from Disney, where she had headed its resort division, as head of its outlet division and was appointed head of Gap North America in 2005.

Gap will shortly disclose its sales for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, but its North American unit's sales declined to US$5.4bn last year from $5.75bn the year before.

Gap didn't name a successor to Hansen at Banana Republic.

The company operates more than 3,100 specialty stores under the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic nameplates in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.  
 
By Arnold J Karr.