What to Watch: Mary Dillon Puts a New Foot Forward

Mary Dillon might just be her own toughest act to follow — and investors will be following closely.

When the former Ulta Beauty chief executive officer steps into her new role as president and CEO of Foot Locker Inc. on Thursday, Wall Street will be watching to see if she can do in sneakers what she did in beauty. At Ulta, Dillon increased consumer awareness and grew the specialty retailer into one of the largest beauty players in the U.S., with coveted brands in the assortment.

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Expectations are already high as shares of Foot Locker spiked as much as 25 percent earlier this month when she was tapped to take the reins from CEO Richard Johnson, who will stay on as executive chairman, but transition out in January. 

In the statement revealing her appointment, Dillon described Foot Locker as an “iconic” company that “possesses a strong set of values and focus on the customer experience,” as well as tremendous growth opportunities.

“It is clear how Foot Locker sits at the heart of the global sport and sneaker community,” she said. 

Sneakers are hot still, ultra hot, really.  Just like beauty.

But will success in one category lead to success in the other?

The answer might start to come into focus this fall at Foot Locker. 

Analysts are already itching to know what Dillon has in mind, and peppered Johnson with questions about what comes next during the firm’s quarterly conference call. 

“As you’ve interacted with Mary initially, any thoughts on her broad view of the company and what attracted her to the role?” one analyst asked.

Another wondered the “key reasons why Mary is such a good fit for the role” and if there were “particular areas from a strategy perspective” that led the decision-making process. 

Johnson lauded Dillon, but made clear investors would have to wait to see what she’s planning. 

But they won’t have to wait too long — the evidence will soon be there in the mall to see.