Who is Richard Dickson, the new CEO of Gap?

Shareholders in Gap will hope incoming CEO Richard Dickson – who arrives from Mattel – can sprinkle a dusting of Barbie magic on the company’s fortunes

Gap, one of the most recognisable names in fashion, has a new President and CEO in the form of Richard Dickson.

Dickson, who joins from Mattel, will officially take the reins from 22 August. 

During his eight-year stint as President and COO, Dickson has been hailed as a leading light in the global corporate transformation that has reinvigorated Mattel’s iconic brands, including Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, while restoring the company to growth and reaffirming it as an industry thought leader. 

Shareholders in Gap, whose own brands include Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, will be hoping the incoming chief can sprinkle a dusting of Barbie magic on the company’s operations following a tough period. 

“Richard has invaluable expertise in areas critical to the work Gap Inc. is doing to strengthen the company for the long term,” said Mayo A. Shattuck III, Lead Independent Director. 

“We are thrilled to have his visionary leadership as the company redefines the future potential of Gap Inc and its renowned American fashion brands.”

An influential leadership figure

As a young man with an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, Dickson attended the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Consumer Economics. He also went on to complete the UCLA Anderson School of Management executive programme.
Heading into the world of work, Dickson spent more than a decade in various roles at Bloomingdale’s before co-founding Gloss.com, which is credited with being the first online retailer dedicated to high-end cosmetics. 

When his business was acquired by Estee Lauder Companies at the turn of the millennium, Dickson joined Mattel and subsequently served as GM and SVP for the Barbie side of the business. 

Over the course of the ensuing decade, he helped revitalise the iconic brand through a new purpose-driven brand identity, product innovation, designer collaborations and retail development, including the first flagship store in Shanghai.

Dickson then spent four years with the Jones Apparel Group as President and CEO of Branded Businesses, where he managed all aspects of the global wholesale, retail and e-commerce enterprises of the company’s portfolio.

Returning to Mattel in 2014, Dickson led a portfolio of global brands, overseeing innovation strategy, design and development, brand marketing and franchise management. Under his leadership, the firm developed and launched the Mattel Playbook, a brand-building approach that has been instrumental in growing its power brands and accelerating transformation.

Incoming Gap CEO Dickson has tough task on his hands

Dickson will know all too well that he is being tasked with turning Gap’s fortunes around. 

Sales have been declining for several years and the retailer never really seemed to recover following the exit of CEO Art Peck in 2019.

Despite his own leadership struggles, Peck’s departure came right in the middle of a restructure which, ultimately, did not come to fruition as Old Navy remained part of the Gap brand.

Gap was then hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering a series of severe financial blows including a reported quarterly loss of almost US$1 billion in June 2020.

In the background a dramatic cost-cutting operation was taking place as the organisation closed dozens of stores across Europe. In the UK and Ireland alone, 81 stores were shut and around 1,000 jobs lost. 

A decade-long partnership with Kanye West then fell apart after just two years, with the rapper claiming Gap failed to meet a number of agreed obligations. 

Further job cuts have followed, including 500 corporate staff members last year and an additional 1,800 workers in recent months. Bob Martin, who had been serving as interim CEO prior to Dickson being recruited, said the layoffs were expected to save the company US$300m per year. 

It’s fair to say, then, that the incoming CEO has a tough task on his hands. He will be hoping to ride the Barbie wave straight into his new job. 


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