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July 12, 2022

Sonia Syngal steps down as Gap Inc CEO

Sonia Syngal has stepped down as president and CEO of US clothing retailer Gap Inc after just over two years at the helm.

By Beth Wright

In a statement yesterday (11 July), Gap Inc said effective immediately, Bob Martin, the company’s current executive chairman of the board, will serve as Gap Inc president and CEO on an interim basis following the departure of Syngal. Mayo Shattuck will continue to serve as lead independent director.

Syngal was named CEO in March 2020. She joined Gap Inc in 2004 and led Old Navy from 2016, having previously served as executive vice president of global supply chain and product operations, responsible for managing Gap Inc’s global supply chain.

“My fellow board members and I want to thank Sonia for her steadfast leadership and many contributions to Gap Inc during her 18 years with us,” Martin said. “Most notably, amidst significant global disruption, social unrest, and economic instability, Sonia had an immediate impact as Gap Inc CEO, establishing a clear strategic direction and cultural identity that has united this global enterprise as a force for good with powerful brands poised to stand the test of time.

“While a search is underway, the board has complete confidence in the formidable leadership team to guide the company through this transition. And I look forward to championing this incredible team as they continue to write Gap Inc’s next chapter with grit and passion.”

Syngal added: “Leading this great company and our 100,000-strong employees since 2020, through unprecedented challenges for our industry, and society, has been an immense honour. Through it all, Gap Inc and its dedicated teams have seized change as an opportunity, restructured for future growth, crystallised unique brand identities rooted in cultural relevance, and fiercely chased transformation.”

Syngal’s departure comes as Gap Inc has named Walmart veteran Horacio (Haio) Barbeito as president and CEO of its Old Navy brand.

Barbeito, who will join Old Navy on 1 August, most recently served as president and CEO of Walmart Canada. During his 26-year career at Walmart, he served in a variety of leadership roles across merchandising, marketing, supply chain, and store operations with global experience in five countries. He has served in CEO roles at Walmart for ten years, first as president and CEO of Walmart Argentina and Chile before taking the role as CEO of Walmart Canada where he said to have spearheaded a modernisation effort to grow that market’s omnichannel business.

“With an exceptional and industry-leading CEO for Old Navy now appointed, I am thankful to have the board’s support in stepping down, ushering in a new opportunity for fresh perspective and rejuvenated leadership to carry Gap Inc forward,” Syngal added.

Martin said: “Haio is a true multi-disciplined retail leader who shares our vision of bringing the democracy of style and service to millions of Old Navy customers, leveraging our greatest assets – our people and our product. We are thrilled for Haio to bring his authentic leadership style to the team, backed by a strong track record of delivering growth through challenging times at complex global organisations. Particularly in this environment, Haio’s sincere customer empathy, operational excellence, and passion for product and marketing innovation, will fuel Old Navy’s competitive strengths on its path to US$10bn, rooted in fun, family, fashion and value.”

Update on second-quarter

Meanwhile, Gap Inc said it expects net sales in the second quarter of fiscal 2022 to decline in the approximately high-single-digit range, relatively in line with its prior expectations. The company continues to navigate margin headwinds and still expects to incur an estimated US$50m of transitory incremental air freight expense in the quarter as well as inflationary costs on raw materials and freight.

In addition, the retailer said it has taken a more aggressive approach to assortment balancing resulting in increased promotional activity during the quarter, which it expects will have a negative impact on gross margin in the period.

Second-quarter fiscal 2022 adjusted operating margin percentage is now anticipated to be zero to slightly negative.

Gap Inc will report its second-quarter fiscal 2022 results on 25 August.

The group revised its full-year guidance in May as it swung to a loss in the first quarter as sales fell by 13% on the prior year.

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