Coverage of FaceLift by Loose Threads, which helps brands build next-generation retail businesses. Read the full article here and read more about FaceLift here.

On the forces that created FaceLift:

It was a match made at ICSC. And the result is a new company that helps digitally native brands make the leap into the physical world. In 2017 Jason Richter, CRX, CLS, was serving on the planning committee for ICSC’s New York Deal Making, and he was asked to put together a discussion panel about the evolution of specialty retail.

As he sought a moderator, friends pointed him to Richie Siegel, a young analyst and host of a popular retail podcast, who was making waves with his insights into the next-generation retail consumer economy.

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In 2016 [Siegel] anticipated that the rising costs of social-media ads, scaling and fulfillment, along with the consumer’s natural desire to see and physically touch the merchandise they want to buy, would make physical stores a vital aspect of any digitally native brand’s success. He has also been talking a lot about the idea of retail as a service.

Richter was impressed with Siegel’s insights. “In speaking to him about the newer brands coming to market, it was clear that there was a transition occurring in the space,” Richter said.

Though, perhaps somewhat contrapuntally, Richter began his own career as a software developer helping physical retailers develop an online presence, he has spent much of the past 17 years focusing on the physical side. In past years he headed real estate for American Apparel, and he was vice president of real estate, construction and facilities at Perfumania. Then he founded Capricorn Asset Management, which advises retailers on their real estate strategies and investments. Richter has worked with such brands as Apple, J.Crew and Starbucks, and with such landlords as Simon, Taubman Centers and Westfield. He figures he has probably completed about 2,000 deals over the course of his career.

Richter’s specialty was legacy brands, but his company was increasingly getting calls from growing online apparel brands such as Timbuk2 and Outdoor Voices for help with their physical store launches and location strategies. “It was evident that there was a new breed of brands coming to the market that were aggressive and entrepreneurial and ‘disruptive,’ ” said Richter. By working with Capricorn, these newcomers could reap the benefits of Richter’s experience and of his national and international connection. There were some areas, however, with which Richter saw he could not help adequately — such as customer service, store layout and marketing. For these concentrations, he needed someone like Siegel.

Meanwhile, Siegel, for his part, was eager to get involved with the very retail revolution he was learning so much about through his podcasts and his research firm. And he needed someone on board like Richter, who had all those thousands of real estate deals under his belt.

The New York conference came and went, but Richter and Siegel continued to meet regularly to discuss how they might best start working together. They eventually brought in Rebekah Kondrat, an experienced retail adviser, as a partner. Kondrat brings roughly a decade of experience in her own right, assisting startups with their store and brand rollouts. She was director of retail stores at Joybird, a digitally native furniture concept that was recently sold to La-Z-Boy; a store leader for online eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker; and a member of the retail team at Apple’s flagship on New York City’s Upper West Side, where she oversaw the training and scheduling of roughly 300 employees.

On the value proposition for FaceLift’s suite of services:

To be sure, these services are in demand. “Today all retailers need to be multichannel,” said retail analyst Rich Johnson, a partner at consultant firm Odyssey Retail Advisors. “The number-one goal of retailers should be servicing your customer and making things easy for them. Everything is about convenience and the ability to be front and center.” In this new economy consumer perspective, Johnson likens FaceLift’s role to that of a local partner for retailers expanding overseas. “What they’re doing is not dissimilar to a franchise model if you enter another country,” said Johnson.

With an international franchising model, a company entering a foreign market for the first time will seek to form a partnership with a native company, until it can itself gain sufficient understanding of the region. That same theory holds here for online clients entering the physical retail space for the first time, observes Johnson.