Former Penney president to join Gap marketing team

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NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Francis, the former J.C. Penney president and chief marketing officer at Target Corp., has found a new home.

Gap Inc., which operates stores under its namesake, Old Navy and Banana Republic, confirmed Tuesday that Francis will become the clothing chain's marketing creative adviser starting Monday.

"He will provide guidance and support to our marketing teams across the company," said Edie Kissko, a Gap spokeswoman. "With nearly 30 years' experience, Michael is among the most accomplished marketing executives in retail."

Kissko emphasized that Francis will serve as a consultant but will not be an employee. He will be spending two weeks a month at Gap's San Francisco offices, working closely with CEO and Chairman Glenn Murphy and the company's brand leaders.

The news was first reported by AdAge's online site.

The development comes almost three months after Francis abruptly left J.C. Penney Co. after being on the job for just over eight months.

As Penney's president, Francis was responsible for the marketing of a controversial new pricing plan that eliminates hundreds of sales events in favor of everyday lower prices. He also oversaw merchandising and product development. While Francis injected a quirky, whimsical style in Penney's advertising, it didn't properly spell out the new pricing plan and customers ended up confused.

Gap has been adding several creative advisers to help spearhead a rebound in its business.

Francis is signing up with Gap at a time when the clothing chain is showing evidence of a turnaround. It reported a 29 percent increase in second-quarter net income, as the fashion retailer's moves to liven up its clothing with brightly colored trendy looks are winning over shoppers. Gap also raised its full-year profit guidance for the second time since May.

The company has struggled for years to reclaim its fashion status.

Meanwhile at Penney's, new CEO Ron Johnson has since assumed Francis' duties. Johnson is tweaking Penny's pricing plan and advertising to better educate shoppers. Penney is trying to reverse a sharp drop in sales and customer traffic as shoppers, accustomed to big discount signs, are going elsewhere.

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