Meet the CEO: Mary Dillon named new Foot Locker Chief

Seasoned executive and former Ulta Beauty Chief Mary Dillon will take the reins of Foot Locker in 2023 – raising the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs

Former Ulta Beauty Chief Mary Dillion has been appointed the new CEO of sneaker giant Foot Locker. She will take the company reins in January 2023.

This comes as Foot Locker veteran and current CEO Dick Johnson is set to retire on September 1 but will serve as executive chairman of the board until January 31, 2023.

Dillon said she was looking forward to working closely with Dick to ensure a smooth transition, and to partnering with the Board, leadership team and nearly 50,000 team members around the world to “build on Foot Locker’s strong foundation and help shape the Company’s future.”

Gender diversity double as Dillon to join new female executive chair

Dillon’s appointment as CEO of Foot Locker tips the gender diversity leadership scales back to 2021 levels (44 female CEOs in the Fortune 500) following the stepdown of former Gap CEO Sonia Syngal in June lowered the number to 43.

In a gender diversity double, Foot Locker further announced the appointment of lead independent director Dona Young as the company’s non-executive chair, replacing Johnson from the end of January 2023.

The move is perhaps unsurprising given Dillon’s prior track record at Ulta Beauty of evolving the company’s Board of Directors to become one of the most diverse of any large public company in the US.

The leadership of both the C-suite and its Board by two separate women is unusual in public companies and is a particular highlight for Foot Locker given that the footwear industry is historically male-dominated.

Big sneakers to fill – but Dillion is no stranger to turnarounds

Dillon has big sneakers to fill following Foot Locker’s record results in 2021 and Johnson’s transformation of the company.

During Johnson’s eight-year tenure, Foot Locker transformed from a brick-and-mortar company into an interactive retail community, with a focus on hyperlocal connections via stores. He led the retailer’s digital transformation and strategy to expand into new geographies as well as diversify product mix, strengthened the firm’s focus on DEI, and grew sales from US$7bn in 2014 to US$9bn in 2021.

Sales in 2022 have been down, however, as the footwear retailer faces similar macroeconomic headwinds as other retailers, from lower consumer spending to rising costs.

Total Q2 sales fell 9.2% YoY to US$2.1bn, following record results last year, but grew 16.4% above levels from 2019. “Recognising that the back half will likely see more pressure than we originally anticipated”, said CFO Andrew Page, Foot Locker’s updated outlook for the year calls for sales to be down 6-7% versus previous guidance calling for sales to be on the upper end of down 4-6%.

The leading global footwear retailer is following a strategy of diversifying its brand portfolio to offer more choice and expand its customer base and says that by the fourth quarter of 2022 it expects no vendor to make up more than 55% of its product budget.

It’s a strategy incoming CEO Dillon is certainly no stranger to, having diversified the brand portfolio of the nation’s largest beauty retailer Ulta Beauty during her tenure as Chief.

As executive chair and CEO of Nasdaq-listed Ulta for eight years, Dillon and her team tripled Ulta’s market capitalisation, doubled revenues and transformed the company to become a leading Fortune 500 retailer.

Under her leadership, Ulta grew from US$2.7bn in sales in 2013 when she arrived to US$8.6bn in 2021 when she departed, and she is further credited with doubling the number of stores and loyalty members and gaining new brands.

It's little wonder then that shares of Foot Locker jumped 20% upon the announcement last week of Dillon as the new CEO.

At Ulta, Dillon also evolved the company’s Board of Directors to become one of the most diverse of any large public company in the nation and championed the establishment of the Ulta Beauty Charitable Foundation to support women and families.

Dillon arrives at Foot Locker with 35 years of experience

The Chicago-native business executive has more than four decades of experience leading consumer-driven businesses in a diverse range of industries, from consumer packaged goods to restaurants to telecoms to beauty and retail.

Prior to Ulta Beauty, Dillion held the top job at US Cellular for three years, and prior to that she served as Global Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s for nearly five years.

Dillon kicked off her career at PepsiCo on the Marketing Associate Program, before rising in the ranks to hold increasingly senior leadership positions across the Quaker Foods Division, including President. She spent 21 years with the company.

Dillon has a degree in Marketing from the University of Illinois Chicago.

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