How One Former Flash-Sale Site Is Staying Alive

Photo: Courtesy of JackThreads.
What happens when a flash-sale site ditches the quick schtick, dabbles in a proprietary label (with a different name), and then completely revamps as an almost entirely private line with a new creative director and president of commerce? We’re about to find out: JackThreads, the site formerly owned by Thrillist, just relaunched, and by next year, the site will be almost exclusively selling private-label goods at full (but affordable) prices.

The Thursday relaunch came just a day after Thrillist Media Group announced that it would be divvying up its business into separate content and commerce companies as a restructuring measure, after scoring $54 million in new funding. The content arm, which will keep the Thrillist Media Group name, will receive funding from Berlin-based digital publishing powerhouse Axel Springer (which snapped up Business Insider recently, too), WWD reports, while JackThreads will be a separately-owned company, with funding coming from Oak Investment Partners and SBNY. Thrillist and JackThreads will continue to share data, co-marketing, and sales services (they’ll also both remain in the same NYC office building).
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Photo: Courtesy of JackThreads.
As for JackThreads’ new aesthetic, Tony Kretten arrived at JackThreads in April after over a decade at Gap, where he’d been head of men’s global design. “The speed at which they wanted to react to the customer base while working at a brick-and-mortar, and the speed at which we can react at JackThreads, is one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” Kretten says. “Traditional brick-and-mortar tries to be everything to everyone, and along the way, they become nothing to no one.”

JackThread’s new look (the clothes and the site itself, as well as the logo) is meant to be a big shift from the past. “It was a little schizophrenic — depending upon the day, you could find Obey or you could find Publish. Now, it’s a clear, focused vision. It’s a nice evolution — call it a revolution, really,” Kretten told Refinery29. “Guys want an editor; someone that can speak with them in their language.” JackThreads is relaunching with 32 styles; by the end of this season, the site's private label will offer more than 80 styles. The label has “an urban element, and a taste of what’s happening in fashion without feeling elitist to the customer,” Kretten says. T shirts cost $18, jeans will run you $60 a pair, and cashmere sweaters are $99 a pop. Currently, 12% of styles on JackThreads are private label; 70% of the site’s offerings will be private label by next year.
Photo: Courtesy of JackThreads.
JackThreads launched in 2008 as a men’s only, flash sales model, back when Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, Fab, and other sites had a ton of buzz for pedaling discounted designer(-ish) goods. Thrillist acquired the site five years ago, and experimented with a private label, Goodale, in 2012, finally ditching the flash model around two years ago. “You’re buying the leftover stuff, and inevitably, even if you can deliver really great value, and great price, you fundamentally can’t deliver the absolute best merchandise,” Ben Lerer, CEO and cofounder at Thrillist Media Group and chairman of JackThreads told Refinery29. “With this super-savvy customer that exists today, maybe you can survive, but you certainly can’t thrive if you aren’t delivering a fantastic product.”

It was a gradual segue from flash sales to full-priced goods (the last off-price order was placed in summer 2014, Lerer says), so that customers wouldn’t freak out — and in order to lure in new brands that wouldn’t have wanted to be in the company of discounted merch. The idea of having an eponymous private label has been percolating for a couple years: “I think the ultimate goal was that we would get good enough at making stuff, we would feel comfortable putting our own name on it,” Lerer says. There were “growing pains” in the process of making JackThreads the fashion label come to fruition, in terms of supply chain and sourcing matters, according to Lerer, but the answers were in the numbers. “We’ve always had fantastic access to data, so we knew from a style, and size, and trend perspective what stuff we needed to be producing and carrying,” he says.
Photo: Courtesy of JackThreads.
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As Kretten heads up the private label’s look, Mark Walker is minding the money. Walker was hired in December as JackThreads’ president of commerce; after the recent round of funding and subsequent restructuring, Walker is now CEO at the company. Walker arrived after JackThreads had already pivoted away from the flash sales model, but having spent time at Rue La La, Walker (who also spent six years at Gap,where he overlapped with Kretten) has a keen sense of why flash has tuckered out — and why JackThreads’ rebooted private label could be a hit.

“One of the nails in the coffin for flash was that there wasn’t constantly new stuff going into the pipeline. It tends to be the same off-price merchandise from the same brands, getting regurgitated by different flash sites,” Walker says. The tricky terrain of transitioning out of the flash space happened successfully for JackThreads, in Walker’s opinion — “not only did we not lose our guy, we’re finding that we’ve got a stronger relationship with our existing members than we had before.” With this latest relaunch, loyal customers will now find “one super-concentrated, best-in-class, great-value-offer JackThreads assortment,” Walker says.

The content-commerce split doesn’t come as much of a shock, but what, exactly, does it mean for the commerce side of things, especially amid a big relaunch? ”JackThreads has reached a size where it makes the most sense for it to operate as its own entity, which it actually has for some time now," Lerer says. "This latest round of funding means we can grow the business as aggressively as we've always wanted.”
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