Women's apparel powerhouse creates new executive position


The owner of Ann Taylor, Loft, DressBarn, Lane Bryant and other brands is consolidating its executive leadership structure as part of its efforts to reinvigorate top-line growth.

Gary Muto has been appointed to the newly created position of president and CEO of ascena Brands, with responsibility for reinvigorating and driving top-line growth across Ascena’s full brand portfolio. He will continue to lead the company’s premium fashion segment, and will now also provide strategic direction and leadership for the company’s plus, value and kids fashion segments.

In addition, Brian Lynch has been elevated to president and COO of ascena retail group. Lynch will continue to have responsibility for the retailer's operating platform and infrastructure, and will remain focused on the development and delivery of top-tier enterprise capabilities in supply chain, technology, product sourcing, real estate, and non-merchandise procurement.

The appointments come as Ascena has seen its brands battered by increased competition from online players and fast-fashion retailers. In June, it announced plans to close 250 of its stores during the next two years, and seek rent concessions for some 400 additional ones. The news came on the heels of a dismal third quarter during which total same-store sales fell 8% amid a decline in store traffic across all brands.

Both Muto and Lynch will continue to report to David Jaffe, chairman and CEO of ascena retail group. In a statement, Jeffe said the new executive management structure would enable faster decision making, accelerate implementation of company-wide initiatives, and foster greater accountability.

"We have recently completed an extensive evaluation of strategic opportunities that complement our core business, and leverage our brand and platform assets," said Jaffe. "The new management structure we are announcing today will allow me to increasingly focus my efforts on strategic growth initiatives. We have begun a search for a new senior executive who will be responsible for developing strategic opportunities, and all related business development activity will report directly to me."

Ascena retail group sells apparel, shoes and accessories for women through its premium fashion segment (Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey), value fashion segment (Dressbarn and Maurices), plus fashion segment (Lane Bryant and Catherines), and kids fashion segment (Justice). It operates e-commerce websites and approximately 4,800 stores throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.