Gap, Looking for Barbie Magic, Hires Mattel’s President as C.E.O.

Gap hopes its new chief executive can help it achieve a Barbie-like turnaround.

Just days after the blockbuster opening weekend of “Barbie,” Gap, announced on Wednesday that it had hired Richard Dickson of the toymaker Mattel Inc. to become its chief executive officer.

Mr. Dickson is Mattel’s and president and chief operating officer and has been at the toymaker since 2000. He helped improve Barbie’s image by focusing on creative marketing campaigns, rolling out Barbies of different races and body shapes and spearheading brand collaborations to help change the perception of the well-known but often fraught doll.

Over the weekend, the Greta Gerwig-directed “Barbie” brought in $162 million at the North American box office. That success followed months of a can’t-miss-it marketing campaign that put Barbie at the top of mind for a wide range of consumers, from children to adults. Audiences draped in pink flocked to the film.

“Bringing that brand back and having it resonate with large parts of the public is super important to the Mattel turnaround,” said Jonathan Reid, director of retail and consumer at Fitch Ratings. “Richard was a big part of that.”

Gap, which owns its namesake brand as well as Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, is in need of a revival akin to Barbie. The 52-year-old retailer has been facing falling sales and a customer base whose clothing needs continue to change. The mall stalwart has faced increased competition from online retailers that have chipped away at its market share. It is also contending with an industrywide challenge of U.S. consumers spending less on discretionary categories like clothes.

In May, Gap Inc. said overall net sales fell 6 percent compared with the year before and sales at all of its brands had declined.

“It’s the work ahead that excites me most — the change to work hand-in-hand with the teams to evolve Gap Inc. for a new era,” Mr. Dickson said in a statement. He previously held roles at Bloomingdale’s and founded an online cosmetic retailer that was later acquired by Estee Lauder.

Mr. Dickson will step down from Mattel on Aug. 3 and begin at Gap on Aug. 22.

The search for Gap’s leader was a prolonged one. Its previous chief, Sonia Syngal, left the company in July 2022 amid falling sales and supply chain issues that dampened the company’s earnings. Gap’s Athleta brand was also without a chief executive for months, before naming Chris Blakeslee, formerly of Alo Yoga, on Monday.

“Gap has lost its brand relevance with its core consumer,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s unclear where the brand sits. That was Mattel a few years ago.”

A focus on collaborations and figuring out how to get Gap to be ubiquitous among a wider range of shoppers would be a start. (Gap and Barbie rolled out a collaboration ahead of the movie’s premiere.)

This year, Gap’s stock has decreased 18.8 percent. The stock rose more than 7 percent in early trading on Wednesday.

Mr. Dickson has been on Gap’s board since November.

“Amidst a deliberate and thoughtful search process, it became clear that Richard is destined for this role at this moment,” Bob Martin, who was interim C.E.O. of the company and will continue as chair of the retailer’s board, said in a statement. “His experience as a proven transformational brand builder and belief in the power of inclusivity, make him a perfect fit for Gap Inc.”