(Adds interview with Macy's CEO, background on Gennette)
NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Macy's Inc on Monday said it promoted its chief merchandising officer, Jeffrey Gennette, to president of the company, in a move that potentially positions him to become chief executive.
In addition to continuing to serve as the department store operator's chief merchant, Gennette will take on marketing and e-commerce at Macy's namesake chain, as well as manage Macy's in-house brands, such as INC, which generate 20 percent of company revenue.
The chief executive of Macy's, Terry Lundgren, who is giving up the title of president, declined to say whether the appointment was connected to the company's succession planning. But he said the promotion was an endorsement of Gennette's importance to the retailer.
"It's a clear message that this is one of our top-performing individuals to give him such as huge responsibility," Lundgren told Reuters in an interview.
Lundgren, 61, has been CEO since February 2003, and on his watch, Macy's has pulled ahead of rivals such as J.C. Penney Co Inc, Kohl's Corp and Sears Holdings in terms of growth.
Gennette, 52, will continue to be based in New York. In his new role, he will have no responsibility for the upscale Bloomingdale's chain, which is also owned by Macy's Inc.
Gennette has been Macy's chief merchant since 2009. He started with Macy's in 1983, when he worked at Macy's West as an executive trainee. Since then, his stints at the company have included CEO of Macy's West, Macy's Northwest among other roles.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler)