Sophie Hill on the changing face of retail and surviving 2020

Threads is not your average startup and, really, it’s not a startup anymore. It’s over 10 years old, employs more than 150 people and successfully bridged the Series A gap in Europe closing a round of $20 million back in 2018. And so far, it’s surviving 2020. 

COVID-19 has put retail — and the rest of us — on a roller coaster. For some it has minted millions, with captive audiences realizing that they really, really hate that couch and it’s finally time to replace it. For others, like Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney and J. Crew, it has meant bankruptcy. Bankruptcy filings for 2020 are clocking in at 424, according to S&P Global, and look on track to upset the total filings in 2010. 

Threads finds itself heartily in the black on this one.

“We’ve definitely had a challenging year. When we look at Threads’ business model we’re set up to respond very quickly and we have had a strong year. We’re very much in the luxury sector, we specialize in the luxury clientele and we have not seen a decline in our existing customers,” Threads founder and CEO Sophie Hill explained as she joined us at TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020 virtual conference.

Despite predicting slower growth, Threads is actually attracting new customers, many of whom have been hesitant to make the jump into digital, proving that the luxury market, and customer, is as robust as ever. “We have seen customers purchasing goods at our higher-value price points, which is actually down to the fact that the stores are closed.” 

While this might be the final nail in the coffin of brick-and-mortar retail, it’s bigger than that.

“People have been forced to go online, who might not have gone there as a first choice. Many people have found it easier than expected and a real lifeline in lockdown. I think that will hugely change trends,” Hill says. With an ever more competitive retail market, what can help brands stand out? 

For Threads, it’s all about the customer. That means meeting them where they are, be it WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram (though we’ve yet to see the brand appear on TikTok) and delivering a seamless customer experience that centers on two key values: convenience and personalization. Above all, agility breeds resilience. 

Learn what channels are showing high engagement, the discovery process for new platforms poised to take the market and strategies retailers both big and small can use to stay ahead of the curve in the interview below.