Retail Entrepreneur of the Year, 2007: Matthew McCauley

Matthew McCauley

Of the thousands of publicly traded companies in the United States, very few have CEOs under the age of 35. Gymboree Corp. is one of them. At 34, Matthew McCauley is the youngest CEO in the company’s 31-year history. What role did his youth play in his success?

“I don’t think it’s as much about age as it is about personality,” McCauley said. “It’s more of a willingness to try new things, look at things from a fresh perspective and not accept the status quo. If there is an advantage to being young in a business like this, it is that you don’t come into situations with a ‘been there, done that’ attitude.”

McCauley started out in retail handling distribution at Payless ShoeSource. From there, he went to Gap Inc., where he served in a variety of positions.

In 2001, McCauley joined Gymboree as director of allocation. One promotion followed the other in swift succession, and in 2005, he was named president. In 2006, McCauley was appointed CEO.

McCauley has been at the forefront of Gymboree’s growth initiatives, the newest being the value-oriented Crazy 8 concept. At the same time, he has concentrated the company’s focus strictly on its core children’s product, shutting down its Janeville women’s apparel chain. His strategy seems to be working: Gymboree’s sales hit $247.6 million in the third quarter, up 18% vs. last year. Same-store sales were up 8%.

Friendly, open and enthusiastic, McCauley routinely encourages and seeks feedback from others in the Gymboree organization.

“The thing that I really love about my job is the ability to work with a team of really creative people who can rally around a vision and achieve seemingly impossible goals,” he said.

CEO and chairman Gymboree Corp. San FranciscoAnnual sales: $791.6 millionType of business: Children’s apparel and accessoriesNumber of stores: 755 (587 Gymboree stores (557 in the United States and 30 in Canada), 73 Gymboree Outlet stores, 86 Janie and Jack shops and 9 Crazy 8 stores)Areas of operation: Nationwide and Canada

As to the attraction of retail, McCauley says it harkens back to his love of fixing things.

“In retail, there is always something to fix,” he explained, “and you are able to see tangible results of your efforts almost immediately.”

Outside of work, McCauley is a devoted family man and father.

“My family and my church are the most important things in my life,” he said. “I spend a lot of time wrestling with my kids, and I love to go four-wheeling when I have a bit of downtime.”