Gap names Kneen Banana Republic creative director

(Adds background, sales)

LOS ANGELES, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Gap Inc GPS.N said on Thursday it named Simon Kneen creative director for the Banana Republic chain as part of its efforts to revitalize sales and offer more exciting merchandise at the apparel company.

Kneen, also named executive vice president of Banana Republic, most recently was creative design director for the Retail Brand Alliance, working with such brands as Adrienne Vittadini and Brooks Brothers.

Banana Republic is the smallest, most upscale and best performing of Gap’s chains, which include Gap and Old Navy.

Kneen, who has a background in European couture, is due to begin his job on Jan. 9.

Gap Inc wants to win back shoppers who have turned to other retailers for casual apparel. Hardest hit have been Gap and Old Navy stores, whose competition includes Target Corp TGT.N, Kohl's Corp KSS.N and American Eagle Outfitters AEO.N.

In September, Gap Inc hired fashion designer Todd Oldham as creative director of the Old Navy chain, with a mandate to develop a merchandising strategy for the stores that sell lower-cost, casual apparel.

Chief Executive Glenn Murphy, appointed in July, was behind a major make-over at Canadian drug chain Shoppers Drug Mart SC.TO and has said that better merchandising and design were priorities for Gap Inc.

As of Nov. 3, Banana Republic operated 549 stores in North America and 21 in Japan.

In its most recent third quarter, Banana Republic North America posted an 8 rise in total sales, while same-store sales, a key gauge of retail performance, rose 1 percent. That compares to same-store sales declines of 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively, at North American Gap and Old Navy stores.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Toni Reinhold)

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