Outside Business Journal

New Patagonia CEO Has Plans to Re-Energize Retail, Expand Storytelling and More

OBJ talks to new Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario to find out where she sees the brand heading

David Clucas

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One of the surprise news items at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 was the announcement of a leadership change at Patagonia.

Casey Sheahan, who had held the president and CEO title for nearly eight years, handed the position to Rose Marcario, who, in May 2013, was promoted to lead the brand’s larger holding company Patagonia Works.

She’ll keep that title and now directly oversee Patagonia’s main apparel business along with its provisions division and “$20 Million and Change” initiative.

“We looked at multiple ways to structure the company, but at the end of the day, all of our businesses are working toward the same missions,” Marcario told Outside Business Journal. Those goals include continuously improving the supply chain to be more sustainable, expanding the company’s environmental storytelling to further spread the message, and educating consumers on how to repair, reuse, and extend the life of their products.

With more condensed leadership, expect to see more synergies between the divisions, particularly with the well-known apparel end helping support the other businesses, she said.

And it’s not all philosophical talk — consumers and retailers will see changes on the surface. Marcario wants to lead a re-energization of Patagonia’s retail stores. “We’re going to leverage our storytelling to engage our customers in a more dynamic way,” she said. One initiative will be to provide in-store education to consumers on how they can repair their existing products, instead of buying new ones. It seems counter-intuitive, but speaks to Patagonia’s larger sustainability goals, she said.

It also won’t be long before Patagonia Works releases details on “three or four” business ventures it plans to support through its $20 Million and Change campaign, an internal fund the company set up last May to help responsible, start-up companies bring about positive benefit to the environment.

Marcario also is encouraged how Patagonia and its 2,000 employees can serve as leaders and role models to other companies through its status as a benefit corporation. There is a better way to do business, she said, and that means blurring the lines between for-profit and non-profit practices with less greed and more good.

“I actually think business can be the biggest change agent here,” she said. “It’s frankly not going to happen through the government. We’re lucky to be a private company. I realize this might not be so easy for public companies.”

The biggest challenge ahead for Patagonia? Well, beyond the environmental one, she said, the changing retail landscape, consumer buying habits, mobile commerce and distribution are near the top of her to-tackle list.

“We’ve got to stay on top of it all,” she said. “We’ve got to think of it as all one channel … and it’s a complex beast.”