After reviving the Barbie brand into a global powerhouse, Richard Dickson, the president and chief operating officer of Mattel, is taking his turnaround skills to another beleaguered brand. Gap Inc. announced Wednesday that Dickson will be the new CEO and president of its house of brands, which includes its namesake label, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta. The role is effective Aug. 22.
Gap hires Mattel exec responsible for Barbie revival as CEO
Dickson is credited with helping propel Barbie to fame, evidenced by the brand’s recent blockbuster film success and its 100-plus brand partnerships. Prior to his leadership of the brand—he rejoined the company in 2014—Barbie suffered as a toy as mothers avoided it for its unrealistic portrayal of female stereotypes. Yet under Dickson, the 64-year-old brand evolved with the introduction of new body types and ethnicities and storylines that reinforced the power of play and female independence. “Barbie,” the movie, which raked in a year-high $155 million in ticket sales from North American theaters at its recent opening weekend, demonstrates the cross-generational appeal the Barbie brand currently commands.
Prior to rejoining Mattel nearly a decade ago, Dickson worked as president and CEO of branded businesses for the Jones Group, which included marketing and merchandising for the clothing company. He had also worked at Mattel in the early 2000s.
Analysts are optimistic.
“His reinvention of the Barbie franchise, which is currently riding on a high, is also proof that he understands how to turn around established brands that have run out of energy and steam,” wrote Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, in a recent research note about Dickson’s appointment. “This is exactly the challenge he will need to address at Gap.”
Dickson, who also led Mattel brands such as Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, was appointed to Gap’s Board of Directors late last year. The fashion house has been without a permanent CEO since the July 2022 departure of Sonia Syngal, who was appointed to the role in 2020 after leading the Old Navy brand. Plagued by losses, store closures and executive turnover, Gap has been struggling for years to regain its standing as a beloved consumer brand. For its most recent quarter, the clothier reported sales of $3.28 billion, a 6% decline over the year-earlier period. Gap’s net loss for the period was $18 million, a fraction of the $162 million lost for the same period in 2022.
Mattel and Gap partnered on one of 'Barbie's' earliest announced brand collaborations. In April, the brands announced an exclusive apparel and accessories collection. Several items have already sold out.
Following Dickson's departure, Mattel announced that Lisa McKnight, who has also been spearheading Barbie’s revival, was promoted to chief brand officer from global head of Barbie and dolls. She remains executive VP. Josh Silverman was promoted to executive VP from global head of consumer products and remains chief franchise officer.