The Short Version

FaceLift by Loose Threads, which creates retail strategy and infrastructure for next-generation consumer brands, has been in the works for over a year and marks a major expansion for the Loose Threads ecosystem. If retail will play a crucial role in your brand’s future, you need to accelerate—not outsource—it. Think of FaceLift as your on-ramp: We’ll help you build the engine and then let you take over the wheel when you’re ready.

Our services include:

We are also hiring to further build out the FaceLift team.

 

The long version

The backstory

Loose Threads has led the way identifying major strategy shifts for consumer brands before they are conventional wisdom. Charting the changes in digital acquisition for a number of years, we’ve followed how rising costs on Facebook, Instagram and Google have unraveled the business models of many digitally-native brands. Coupled with the operational costs of scaling and fulfillment, not to mention the challenges of showcasing online-only brands, running an online-only business is more expensive than running a multi-channel one that includes retail, wholesale or both.

But it takes an immense amount of time to integrate the modern retail mentality into the blood of digitally-native brands, not to mention legacy retail companies. Brands need to overcome a number of challenges to take full advantage of all that 21st-century retail has to offer:

  1. In a world of intense competition, how do you build a retail strategy that has a fundamental hook to get shoppers in the door?
  2. In the midst of a retail reckoning, how will you find the best and most flexible properties, and how will you build stores in a cost-efficient, but experience-first manner?
  3. As a business with multiple sales channels, how will you justify the expenses and manage attribution across the company?
  4. In a world where shoppers know more than your in-store employees, how do you hire and train retail teams that provide the best customer experience?
  5. In a landscape where technology quickly becomes obsolete, how will you pick the best systems that integrate and scale with your needs?
  6. In an age characterized by limited attention spans and endless noise, how will you build and execute a lasting marketing strategy that drives traffic to retail stores using symbiotic, online-offline methods?

All of the questions above are challenges in their own right, but they are inextricably linked and can’t be solved in isolation. Modern retail is like a mirror that inescapably illuminates a brand’s strength and scalability. Success is dependent on deep coordination among every single part of the organization.

Brands, therefore, have a choice: They can either solve all of these issues alone, which risks a slow and potentially disjointed retail rollout, or they can tap into select external resources that help them learn faster and accomplish more. A closely-integrated partner that accelerates a brand’s retail expansion can bring an immense amount of knowledge, connections and operational expertise to the table, transferring the retail mindset and resources internally over time.

As Loose Threads watched the landscape evolve, we realized that we were in a unique position to become this ambitious, but much-needed external partner. Loose Threads’ research allows us to see ahead of the pack, informing strategy across customer acquisition, scaling and customer experience. Our advising background empowers us to build leading strategies that drive shoppers to stores versus expecting them to show up. Our understanding of the online retail landscape positions us to serve as a translator to the offline retail landscape, as brands are continually diversifying their business beyond digital channels.

But first there were some gaps to fill.

An operationally-sound core

There were two missing pieces that would be crucial to our team and for our clients: retail operations and real estate.

Retail operations

As FaceLift was coming together, I was looking for a strong operator to help me build the business and Rebekah Kondrat kept coming to mind. I had met her before Loose Threads was a real company, when she was at Outdoor Voices, helping to open five retail locations across the U.S. where the brand saw up to 30% YOY growth in comping stores. Before that, she was among the first five Store Leaders at Warby Parker, where she helped build the policies and training to scale the business to 35 locations. Prior to Warby Parker, she was a member of the Apple Retail team, helping open the largest flagship store at the time on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She oversaw the scheduling and ongoing training of 300 employees, later becoming the Senior Manager of the highest-performing technician team in the Apple Retail fleet at Grand Central Terminal.

Rebekah spent 2018 as the Director of Retail Stores at Joybird, a furniture company that was recently acquired by La-Z-Boy. At the end of 2018, I convinced her to join us to help realize FaceLift’s ability to fundamentally impact our clients’ businesses.

Real estate

I met Jason Richter a few years ago at ICSC, the retail real estate conference in New York, when I was moderating a panel on emerging trends in specialty retail. We started meeting regularly to talk about the state of the retail real estate industry, in addition to brainstorming potential ways to collaborate.

Jason has spent most of his career as an in-house executive for the nation’s largest developers and retailers. He was in charge of Real Estate, Construction & Facilities for American Apparel, Perfumania, Ricky’s, Jimmy Jazz and Man Alive, in addition to national and international brands with between 200-400 stores each across 18 countries and 40 states. Before that, he held a senior leasing position for six years at Thor Equities, one of the world’s large private equity investors in the retail industry. He has personally been involved in over 2,000 deals, working with leading brands (Apple, J.Crew, Levis, Outdoor Voices, Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret) and landlords (Acadia, Brookfield, Simon, Taubman, Vornado and Westfield).

Most recently, Jason and his team at Capricorn Retail Advisors have been working with brands as an external real estate department, bringing the knowledge, relationships and impact of an in-house department to companies seeking a more flexible solution. As brands expand nationally, finding the best properties in each city becomes more complex, and having a dedicated team managing local brokers, running the negotiation and legal process, and keeping an eye on lease actions is a huge advantage.

As FaceLift started coming together, it was an easy decision to plug in Jason and his team, with Capricorn as our exclusive real estate partner, working in tandem to help clients make the most of the dizzying change the real estate industry is undergoing. Jason and I speak daily and our teams work very closely together, as real estate impacts an immense amount of the retail process.

Design, construction and technology vendors

Different brands have different needs, timelines and budgets, so we knew that when it came to design, construction and technology vendors, there was not a one-size-fits-all solution for every potential client. As a result, we started building up a collective of designers, architects, general contractors, fabricators, technology providers and other vendors that would provide our clients a range of options. With our constantly evolving vendor database, we’re able to make informed recommendations while also running competitive bidding processes.

FaceLift’s suite of services

As these pieces came together, defining the range of services FaceLift would offer became the next priority. Starting with New Store Openings was the logical first step, since brands need a repeatable store opening process to scale efficiently and successfully.

FaceLift New Store Opening & Evolution capabilities includes:

  • Create: Creating 360-degree retail strategies.
  • Locate & Lease: Selecting the right neighborhoods and spaces, and running a disciplined negotiation process.
  • Quantify & Analyze: Defining, forecasting and reaching your financial goals.
  • Design & Build: Designing and building spaces with best-in-class partners.
  • Hire & Train: Hiring and training next-generation retail teams.
  • Assess & Unify: Building the technical and operational infrastructure to scale.
  • Market & Evolve: Marketing and changing the store to meet your customers’ needs.

While these services were built for digitally-native brands moving into retail, they are also relevant to legacy retail brands that want to innovate faster than they are used to. We can create the new, but also evolve the old.

We spent months focusing specifically on New Store Openings, but soon realized the need for an expanded number of additional services:

Retail marketing

Even when stores are located in prime locations—and despite the ease of receiving traction for a store launch—keeping the marketing engine running long after a new store opening is a whole other animal. Brands have a long way to go: In the Loose Threads Q4 2018 Megaphone Report, 45.9% of brands and retailers with owned retail used Facebook & Instagram to advertise their stores, but these ads comprised a mere 7.6% of their paid digital outreach. When it came to email marketing, not a single email among the 44 brands and retailers we surveyed during that period (a total of 644 emails) mentioned retail.

After further investigation, it became clear that brands needed someone not only to advise on the ongoing retail marketing strategy, but also someone to help execute it. FaceLift Retail Megaphone fills this void, creating and executing robust IRL marketing strategies that get shoppers in the door, acting as a retail-focused marketing agency. We use online and offline tools to drive traffic and build lasting strategies that circulate between brands’ digital and physical realms. We are also hiring for this division.

Store manager training

From there, we turned our focus to the people who make stores succeed: store managers. Although working at a local, rather than corporate level, store managers are core to any thriving store. But helping them optimize their impact and prepare for career advancement requires investment. Programs like Situational Leadership provide soft skills training, but none focuses on tactical skills such as talent selection, coaching, P&L understanding or marketing. FaceLift Store Manager Bootcamp fills this gap, allowing brands to turbocharge the impact of their store managers with efficient and practical courses. We’ve started with an eight-week standard curriculum, but can also build custom lessons and plan to roll out more expansive classes soon.

Unfiltered store insights

As we started building FaceLift, we also thought a lot about secret shopper programs. These notorious programs give brands unfiltered insights about their stores, but provide too narrow of a snapshot and often undermine the store manager by cutting them out of the feedback process. Over many discussions with Rebekah, we decided to build a program that presents authentic insights about a brand’s retail environment and experience, but does so in a way that includes store managers from day one, empowering them to actualize constructive changes. This became the FaceLift *Not So* Secret Shopper Program, which solves both of these needs, creating a better learning experience for everyone involved.

360-degree retail investigations

Loose Threads’ research background taught us the importance of starting every project with a clean slate and as much information as possible—we knew it was important to bring this same mentality to FaceLift. Every project we work on begins with a survey of our client’s business. This can take on many forms, but for FaceLift, we wanted to create a template that would look under the hood of the major pillars of retail while providing a blueprint for future improvements and opportunities. The FaceLift Retail Audit is the first step in a long-term relationship during which we complete a full investigation of your brand to inform future collaboration areas.

An essential Newsletter and Podcast for retail leaders

Finally, we are bringing two of the more important elements of the Loose Threads ecosystem—our Podcast and Newsletter—to round out FaceLift. Tomorrow we’ll launch the FaceLift Newsletter, a weekly briefing featuring the latest news, opportunities and advice for retail leaders. In the coming weeks, we’ll also launch the Retail Is Alive Podcast, featuring in-depth conversations with the leaders building next-generation retail.

All together, our services aim to be robust yet flexible, depending on your brand’s specific needs.

The FaceLift approach

As everything was coming together, we spent a lot of time thinking about who we wanted to be. In the last few years we’ve seen a number of “retail platforms” and “retail-as-a-service” models emerge, which allow brands to ship their product to a company and let the platform handle the rest of the retail execution. These companies have raised tens of millions of dollars in the attempt to scale quickly.

While we believe there is a role for these platforms to play in very early retail tests, any brand that knows retail is or will become a crucial channel for its business needs to own—not outsource—its strategy and infrastructure. Scalability should not come at the expense of excellence—the risk to the customer experience and internal company knowledge about its retail strategy is too large to outsource retail or build it recklessly.

For the brands that want to expand their retail footprint opportunistically, and do so in a way that ensures they own the infrastructure and strategy internally, we’ve built FaceLift to be your trusted partner—helping your brand build up the internal muscle memory and then empowering you to fully take over specific functions as you see fit.

This approach requires an immense amount of depth, communication and embedding from FaceLift to help our clients succeed, and in order to provide this level of experience, we’re building FaceLift to work with a small number of clients at a time. This ensures our clients have access to the resources and attention they need to thrive. Our goal is to be the best, not the biggest.

While we’re launching with a full suite of services, this is only the beginning.

In the meantime, one thing is certain: Retail is alive.

Richie Siegel
Founder and CEO
Loose Threads and FaceLift